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Current situation
Where next?
  Further into the future
The big unknowns
High prices; the effects
Uncertainty; the effects
Related pages

Australia's Energy Future; where from here?

At the time of writing South Australia had gone from near zero renewable electricity to more than half in fifteen years, but the rest of the nation was lagging badly.

Australia has huge untapped renewable energy resources. Unprecedented heatwaves, fires, storms, floods and droughts are just the obvious face of the climate change that scientists have been warning us about for decades. It is plain that renewable energy is the future; Australia should be seriously pursuing the huge potential of renewable energy, not only to run the nation, but as an export industry.

In what follows I point out that we could be developing far more onshore wind power and while we have no offshore wind power at present we could develop a huge amount. We have hardly started with solar thermal power, and I show by a simple calculation that more solar power could be generated just in a small area of northern SA than is consumed in the whole of Australia.

Calculations like these have been done before; they are not new. What is new is that now these things are economically viable. The one thing missing for the full and early development of these assets is vision in those who are running the country (whoever they are).

The opportunities are huge and many. Apart from more of the same, more wind and solar PV power, we have: solar thermal power with storage, turning excess renewable energy into hydrogen to replace natural gas for domestic consumption and export, electric vehicles, hydrogen powered vehicles, exporting hydrogen products, exporting electricity, pumped hydro energy storage and more, all based on clean, renewably generated energy.

This page was written 2018/08/20, modified 2019/04/18
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©
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SA's energy future

Who wants renewable energy?

This page uses a number of different energy units. See another page on this site for an explanation.

The situation at the time of writing

A 2012 World Health Organisation (WHO) report, summarised in The Guardian, states that air pollution is the world's single biggest environmental health risk.

The main sources of ambient air pollution are motor vehicles and coal burning. The main sources of air pollution in homes are coal smoke and wood smoke.

Coal (and gas) burning for power generation can be replaced with renewable energy. Motor vehicles can be electrified, coal and wood burning in homes can be replaced with electricity, and the electricity for both can be generated using renewables.

  • Greenhouse/climate change and ocean acidification are looming disasters whose massive proportions most people don't seem to grasp. Both are largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Australia has a limited amount of installed wind power (5% of generation in 2016 – Australian Energy Update, 2017, Department of Environment and Energy);
  • More wind power is being developed, and far more has been proposed;
  • About a quarter of Australian houses had roof-top solar power in 2017, the proportion of commercial premises with solar is probably similar (solar accounted for 3% of total generation in 2016, almost all of this being small-scale: Australian Energy Update, 2017, Department of Environment and Energy);
  • Utility scale solar power at the present is small, but is about to become a major factor in the generation/consumption equation; in a decade or so it could become as large as present wind power generation;
  • There is little energy storage in the nation and the amount proposed to be built in the near future is not sufficient to cover foreseeable needs;
  • There is a very large amount of ageing coal-fired generation in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and WA;
  • There is absolutely no need for additional coal-fired (or other, eg. Nuclear) base-load generation capacity;
  • There is sufficient gas generation to fill demand when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining.

A part of one of Australia's wind farms
Wind farm
Wattle Point Wind Farm, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

A decade of transition in the Australian electricity sector.
Change in terawatt-hours generated in the National Electricity Market between 2008 and 2018.
Image credit: Simon Holmes à Court, The Guardian
The graph on the right records the change in Australia's energy mix in the decade from 2008 to 2018.

In spite of both Labor and Liberal-National coalition governments (particularly the latter, from the Abbott Government starting in September 2013 to the MorrisonGov still in place at the time of writing, January 2019) supporting the coal industry, renewable energy has made great inroads into power generation in Australia.

Quoting Simon Holmes à Court in the Guardian article that published the graph:

"Highly polluting brown coal use is down 36.6% and black coal (still dirty!) has fallen 9.4%, mostly replaced by wind and solar."
At the time of writing it was looking like the rate of renewable energy installation and coal power station retirement was only going to increase.

While these coalition governments have been nothing short of criminal in their opposition to action on climate change, fortunately they have been notably ineffectual in their efforts to stop the transition to renewable energy.

South Australia shows what is possible

The graph below shows a record of South Australia's huge success in:
  1. Going from near zero renewable energy to about 50% in just 15 years;
  2. Adopting wind power (shown green on the graph);
  3. Adopting solar power (shown yellow on the graph);
  4. Finishing with coal power (shown brown on the graph);
  5. and from 2017, increasingly exporting power to the eastern states.
The remainder of Australia has achieved far less. For more information on South Australia's great achievement see SA Success, elsewhere on this site.

South Australia's generation record (added to this page 2019/01/17)
SA generation record
Image credit: Open Nem


Where next?

Peterborough, South Australia, 4.9 MW Solar Farm
Peterborough Solar Farm
Photo taken using my drone, 2018/05/12.
Peterborough township in the background. The solar farm had not long been completed.
Solar farms less than 5 MW require less ancillary services to be provided by the owner than those over that capacity.
In this section I have outlined the changes that are in the process of happening or seem very close to happening. Also see what will happen a little further into the future below and I've listed the more speculative and exciting developments in the game-changer and technical challenges sections below.

More solar PV

There are a great many rooftop solar PV installations in Australia, typically no bigger than 5 kW and rarely bigger than 100 kW; there is scope for far more. Recently utility scale solar PV farms of multi-MW capacity have become commonplace; a number of these have been in the 100 MW+ range.

At the time of writing many solar PV farms were either under construction or proposed in Australia. Wikipedia stated that:

"As of March 2018, Australia had over 7,803 MW of installed photovoltaic (PV) solar power, of which 1,651 MW were installed in the preceding 12 months."

Of particular interest is the tendency to co-locate solar farms with wind farms; for example there is a 50 MW solar farm proposed for the Snowtown Wind Farm (it is expected that the generation from the solar farm during daylight would smooth the total generation because the wind farm tended to generate most power at night). It seems likely that new wind farms being built in Australia will include a significant solar PV component and possibly some form of energy storage.

In August 2018 Victorian Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio had proposed an initiative to install 2,600 MW of solar PV on 360,000 homes; whether it happens will depend on the outcome of an upcoming election among other things.

Solar thermal power with storage

Sundrop Farms – the solar power installation
Sundrop Farms solar
A small part of the greenhouse is just visible on the lower right.
Heat is stored in molten salt in the large tank on the right behind the tower.
Photo taken with my drone
At the time of writing Sundrop Farms, near Port Augusta in South Australia (photo on the right) was the only significant development of solar thermal power with energy storage in the country. It is not used to generate grid electricity, it powers a huge greenhouse including desalination of the very salty water supply.

Construction was expected to start within a few months on the 150 MW Aurora solar thermal power station at Port Augusta in South Australia which will include 1,100 MWh of energy storage (equal to eight hours of full load). Should Aurora prove to be financially viable, more such installations could easily be built around Australia.

More wind farms

At the time of writing 21 wind farms were under construction around Australia, totalling 989 MW; many others had been proposed.

More interconnection

This section added 2019/02/14
In February 2019 transmission network companies ElectraNet and Transgrid delivered their final report into their proposal to build a $1.5 billion link between Robertstown in South Australia and Wagga Wagga in NSW. They have dubbed the project “EnergyConnect”. For more information on the proposal see Renew Economy.

My impression is that this will be a boost for the renewable energy industry in both states, but particularly for SA, and help to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.

It is proposed that the new interconnector will have a capacity of 800 MW, which is about a half of the typical electricity generation in South Australia.

At the time of writing there was increasingly often more renewable energy generation in SA than could be used in the state or exported via the existing interconnectors to Victoria. I have been informed that curtailment on a particular wind farm has been around 3%, but rose to 8% in the last quarter of 2018; if this is typical for all wind farms it is a substantial loss of earning power, and it will only increase as more renewable energy comes on line. The new interconnector will allow increased wind and solar development in SA because any excess, beyond local consumption, will be able to be sent to NSW, displacing coal power there.

There are times when there is wind in SA and not in NSW (and vice-versa), so the new connector will allow one state to help out the other at these times.

Solar power generation in SA peaks later (often an hour or more later), and continues later in the day, than in NSW. Often the peak demand on the NSW power grid comes when solar power in SA is still generating substantial amounts of electricity; the new interconnector will allow this to be sent to the east.

Energy stored in one state will more readily be able to be used in the other state, when needed.

It is expected that the interconnector will be completed about 2022.

Energy storage

At the time of writing there was little pumped hydro energy storage in Australia; much more was needed and was being considered.

One project that will come on-line in the near future is the 250 MW 2,000 MWh Kidston project using a worked-out mine pit as one of the water storages. Another 200-270 MW, 1,600 MWh one at Baroota, a disused reservoir in South Australia, has been proposed (photo in the Potential section); many more are needed. I've written in more detial on pumped hydro elsewhere on this page.

I've written more in the What potential is there? section of this page.

Battery industry

Bloomberg New Energy Finance, as reported in The Sydney Morning Herald by Cole Latimer, 2018/11/07, has suggested that Australia is set to be a leader in what will become a $1.7 trillion battery industry. Bloomberg NEF says that Australia will be one of the nine countries leading this battery charge.

'Virtual' power plants

At the time of writing several pilot projects were underway in SA, and probably elsewhere too, testing the practicality of integrating household batteries and household solar into the state power grid. The expectation was that this could add flexibility in matching generation to consumption.

In September 2018 the SA (Liberal!) government was aiming at building the world's largest virtual power plant that would eventually include a total of 50,000 houses, 250 MW of solar power and 250 MW/675 MWh of battery storage.

Peaking power

At least until various forms of energy storage (such as pumped hydro) can fill in the generation gaps from renewables we will need peaking power, which currently means gas-fired generation.

Base-load power

With the current growth in renewables and energy storage there is absolutely no need for new base-load (coal or nuclear) power in Australia. I have discussed the myth of base-load elsewhere.

ANU report, 2018/09/10

Australia’s renewable energy industry is delivering rapid and deep emissions cuts; written by Ken Baldwin, Andrew Blakers and Matthew Stocks. Quoting from the Summary:
"During 2018 and 2019 Australia is likely to install about 10,400 Megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy, comprising 7,200 MW of large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and windfarms together with 3,200 MW of small-scale rooftop PV systems. Combined, this represents 30% of Australia’s peak electricity demand. The Australian renewable energy industry is convincingly demonstrating its capacity to install large amounts of wind and PV systems. If industry is able to continue to deploy wind and PV at the current rate into 2020 and beyond then Australia will:
  • comfortably exceed the 2020 large scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET) of 33,000 GWh
  • be capable of supplying up to 29% renewable electricity in 2020, 50% in 2025 and 100% in the early 2030s
  • achieve 26% emissions reductions in the electricity sector by 2020/21
  • meet its entire 26% Paris emission reduction target for the whole economy in 2024/25
The current deployment rate could well continue. Prices of wind and PV are falling rapidly, potentially opening new markets and placing downwards pressure on electricity prices. Opportunities are broadening beyond the wholesale market as companies recognise the economic and environmental credential benefits of renewable energy."
It is particularly interesting that all this progress was being made at the same time as the Liberal-National coalition federal government was dishonestly ridiculing South Australia's very successful adoption of renewable energy, trying to support the dying coal industry and slow the growth of renewables.

This section added 2019/02/06

Further into the future

All new roofs will generate power

I can foresee a time when all new roofing will be photo-voltaic; and I don't think it will be very far off. If your roof can generate power, either for your own use or for you to sell to others, why not? There will be little difference in the cost between 'ordinary' roofing and PV roofing in the near future.

Walls and windows could also be made capable of generating electricity; photo-voltaic window materials are already commercially available or close to it. Even paths and roads can be made to generate power.

There will be a time, and it will not be a long while off, when it will be thought very inefficient to not generate power from any artificial surface that is exposed to bright light.

Battery/electric vehicle/grid integration

Household batteries are becoming common, electric vehicles (EVs) are common in some of the more progressive countries and slowly gaining ground in Australia (slowly due to our fossil fuel obsessed governments).

The typical EV battery has a much larger capacity than a household battery. In 2019 car battery capacities varied from 16-60kWh while home battery capacities were typically 2.2-10kWh, with a cost of about $1000/kWh. Since car batteries have about six to seven times the capacity of home batteries only about a sixth or a seventh of the capacity of a car battery would be sufficient to replace a home battery; we should be able to effectively power our homes by solar PV and EV batteries.

Of course the EV battery will not be able to supply the house when the car is away from the home. Perhaps the ideal would be an EV together with a small home battery (say 1-5kWh?); alternatively, just buy grid power as needed when the EV is away. Another possibility, if battery prices fall far enough, is having a home battery big enough to fast-charge your EV.

It will be to the advantage of everyone – householders, EV owners, and those who run the power grid – to charge EV batteries and household batteries when power on the grid is plentiful and cheap and to feed power into the grid when it is in short supply and expensive. This just requires changes in the way power is bought and sold to small consumers.

Of course it will also be to the advantage of a householder to save on capital costs by integrating the EV battery into the household supply so that a smaller and cheaper battery will be sufficient in the house.


Updated 2019/02/15

The big unknown: what will future governments do?

It was announced on 2018/08/26 that Angus Taylor was Australia's new Energy Minister in the Morrison Coalition Government. At the time I hoped for the sake of the nation and the world that Mr Taylor was far better informed on energy in 2018 than he was back in 2012, but that hope proved to be unjustified. I had an argument with Angus about wind power on his Facebook page in 2012, when it became clear he was losing the argument he deleted it. Fortunately I kept a copy.

At least to February 2019 the Morrison Government has continued the anti-renewable energy stance of the previous Turnbull and Abbott governments.

Like the Turnbull Government, the Morrison Government has laboured the point of reliability of the electricity supply. AEMO's Electricity Statement of Opportunities, September 2017 forecast "From 2018–19 to 2021–22, progressively decreasing levels of potential USE [Unserved Energy - power failures due to insufficient generation] conditions are observed over the next four summers, due to increasing renewable generation." The AEMO report foresaw the highest chance of a USE event happening in financial year 2017/18. There were none in SA so far as I know.

Future federal governments

In February 2019 it was looking very unlikely that the Morrison Coalition Government would remain in power following the May 2019 election. The federal Labor Opposition has stated that it will continue to support expansion of coal mining in Australia.

South Australia's state government

A long-standing Labor government was replaced by a Liberal government in March 2018. Surprisingly, the new Liberal government has recognised the value of SA's renewable energy. While they have been careful to not criticise the federal Coalition government they seem to pose no danger to renewable energy developments in South Australia.

What potential is there?
We've just scratched the surface so far.

Wind resource map of Australia
Wind resources in Australia
Image from Aust. Dept. of the Environment, Renewable Energy Atlas of Australia
(Apparently no longer available – 2011/03/18)

Wind power potential

Onshore wind power

The map on the right shows the best wind power resource areas in Australia in red.

At the time of writing wind power development in Australia has been confined to areas that were close to existing high capacity power lines; not a single transmission line has been built anywhere in Australia to connect an area of high wind potential to the NEM (National Electricity Market) or the SWIS (SW Interconnected Network) in WA.

South Australia has gone much further in developing wind power than any other state, with close to 50% of total generation being by wind at the time of writing. Even in SA there is room for far more; for example the map shows that Yorke and Eyre Peninsulas, in South Australia west of Adelaide, have excellent wind power resources. Wind power developments on both peninsulas have reached the (small) maximum imposed by the existing low-capacity transmission lines. South Australia's current wind power, 1.8 GW at the end of 2017, could be doubled or more if there was a power transmission system capable of taking the energy.

Other states have huge untapped wind power potential

Offshore wind power

The map shows that there is huge potential for offshore wind power all along the southern Australian coast, particularly in Base Strate. Australia at the time of writing had no offshore wind power, not even any proposed offshore wind power.

Offshore wind power has been much more expensive than onshore, but with substantial and greatly accelerating offshore development overseas costs have come down substantially; see Unearthed and Wind Power Monthly.

There are advantages to offshore wind power compared to onshore:

  • There are no transport constraints due to road access, length limits, weight limits;
  • Winds over the sea tend to be more consistent and less turbulent than those over land;
  • Turbines can be bigger and turbine towers taller because they don't have to be transported by trucks, they are transported by ships;
  • The problems due to nearby habitation that exist for some onshore wind farms do not arise;
  • Turbine bases form anchoring points for marine life: a boost for marine biodiversity.
What is the potential of Australia's offshore wind power? It could exceed onshore, I'd say that 25 GW would be conservative.

The 137.5 MW first stage of Bungala Solar Farm, under construction
A composite of several drone photos taken during construction, 2018/05/10

Solar power potential

At the time of writing the most northerly South Australian solar PV farm was Bungala near Port Augusta, shown in the photo on the right when under construction. Port Augusta is at the northern extremity of Spencer Gulf and about 300 km north of Adelaide.

Australia's only solar thermal power station, Aurora, is also proposed to be at Port Augusta.

Solar power resources at Port Augusta are as good as any anywhere on the NEM grid, that's why these power stations are there (or are proposed to be there); however, the solar resource gets progressively better north of Port Augusta.

Plainly the potential for solar power development in the huge area north of Port Augusta – about 2/3 of the state – is mind-boggling. All that is lacking for its development is transmission lines and a market for the power.

The area of the part of SA north of the settled districts is around 700,000 km2. Solar farms installed capacities for that area could be expected to be at least 40 MW/km2. So, if 1% of the area of northern SA was covered in solar panels the capacity would be 280 GW and this would generate around 600 TWh/year, more than twice the total annual electricity consumption of Australia.

Pumped hydro energy storage

At the time of writing there were three major pumped hydro installations in Australia:
Tumut 3, NSW, Snowy Mountains Scheme
Registered capacity 600 MW
Commissioned in 1959

Shoalhaven, NSW
Registered capacity 240 MW
Commissioned in 1977. In November 2018 Shoalhaven owners Origin Energy were investigating increasing the capacity to 475 MW.

Wivenhoe, Queensland
Registered capacity 480 MW
Commissioned in 1984
Baroota Reservoir; proposed for use for pumped hydro – see text
Baroota Reservior
Photo taken using my drone, 2018/08/21.
The upper reservoir will be near the top of the ridge in the background, 200 m above the water level of the dam; a drilling rig may be seen on the ridge in high-definition version of this photo.

Snowy Hydro 2.0

In the future is the huge potential of Snowy Hydro 2.0 which will be able to supply 2,000 MW of power for up to 175 hours (total energy storage 350,000 MWh). It has serious technical challenges associated with the geology where the proposed tunnels will have to go and just with its huge size, length of tunnel, and great hydraulic head.

The greatest question with Snowy Hydro 2.0 is whether it can compete with a number of smaller installations elsewhere.

Tasmania 'Battery of the Nation'

Of particular interest is the potentially 4,800 MW Tasmanian 'Battery of the Nation' supported by ARENA. (This is more than twice the expected power capacity of Snowy Hydro 2.0.) The Tasmanian proposal will require a second Bass-Link undersea electricity interconnector, but that uses well established technology.

Australian pumped hydro potential research

An Australian National University group under Andrew Blakers identified 5000 potential pumped hydro sites in mid 2017 each bigger than 1,000 MWh.

Apart from capacity, pumped hydro has a huge advantage over batteries in its longevity; while a battery can be expected to last for a decade or so, most of the components of a pumped hydro installation will last many decades. On top of this is the question of the recyclability of the components of a battery.

An early pilot floating solar power installation
floating solar
On common effluent ponds at Jamestown in Mid-North South Austalia. Photo 2016/12/12

Pilot projects

At the time of writing several pilot projects were underway testing the practicality of integrating household batteries and household solar into the state power grid. The expectation was that this could add flexibility in matching generation to consumption.

Reducing evaporation on pumped hydro storages

Evaporative losses from water storages is a major problem in Australia. While most pumped hydro storages are not large, evaporation losses will still potentially be significant. However there are ways of reducing the losses, even of making good use of the area available to generate more renewable electricity.

In early 2018 a 100 kW floating solar farm had been completed on effluent ponds in Lismore, NSW, with a proposal of installing another 500 kW later. The photo on the right is of an early (2015) pilot installation at Jamestown, South Australia.

Solar panels have been installed on a bigger scale, a megawatt, over irrigation channels in Gujarat, India in a project expected to reduce evaporation by 34 ML per year. Forty megawatts of floating solar panels have also been installed in an area flooded due to coal mining subsidence in China.

More information

I've written more on pumped hydro and pumped hydro using old mines on other pages on this site.


At the time of writing, in 2019, there were seven countries in Europe that had announced measures to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles in favour of electric models: France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Netherlands, Scotland, the UK. The Indian government has said that every vehicle sold in the country should be powered by electricity by 2030. According to CNN Business:
"Austria, China, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Korea and Spain have set official targets for electric car sales. The United States doesn't have a federal policy, but at least eight states have set out goals."

In 2019 it was obvious that electrically powered vehicles were the future of land transport, but Australia, due to its government being corrupted by fossil fuel interests, was a long way behind most of the rest of the world. Before the May 2019 federal election Australia's Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, was rubbishing EVs.

In an article written 2019/04/08 by Ben Potter in the Financial Review Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brooks was quoted as saying that PM Morrison and Minister Taylor were 'tied up in knots' on EV; they were contradicting their own past statements.



In this section I try to follow a line of logical thinking keeping in mind the economics, the need to maintain a reliable power supply and the need to reduce emissions. While the last of these is uppermost in my mind, on this page I try to accept the reality that it seems to have a low priority among those in positions of power (particularly the federal government and the owners of the big fossil-fuelled power stations). In Australia there is a large and powerful lobby for the continued use of fossil fuels.

As discussed above, South Australia sometimes generates more renewable energy than it can consume or export via electricity transmission lines to the eastern states. This excess at present poses problems; but it should be seen as a potential great asset; as renewable energy could be to the whole nation.

There are some technical challenges involved in achieving the full future potential of South Australia's (and the world's) renewable energy resources.

Renewables are now the cheapest form of new-build generation

We all know how important money is; money is a factor in practically every major decision. The fact that onshore wind power and solar PV are now the cheapest ways of generating electricity will certainly be a game-changer. We are already seeing an explosion in the numbers of medium to large-scale solar PV farms.

Integrating generation, storage and consumption

In the past solar PV generation in Australia has been fed directly into the grid, irrespective of when the power is most needed. It is best if the power could be released as it is needed, particularly in areas having limited flexibility, such as communities at the end of long, limited capacity, power lines.

ARENA Wire, 2018/08/18, described the trial of a system on Tasmania's Bruny Island...

It is an "innovative project using solar and batteries to meet energy needs during holiday periods, when the island’s population soars.

The fully automated Network-Aware Coordination (NAC) system being used is the first of its kind. In the trial, it coordinates batteries equipped with Reposit controllers, to support the network when and where it is needed. In the future, it will also have the capacity to integrate EVs, smart appliances and other distributed resources as they come online."

We will see more and more of this sort of thing, with energy storage being combined with solar and wind power in distributed, rather than centralised systems.

Hydrogen generated from renewable energy


Hydrogen, ammonia, hydrogen

Hydrogen can be produced from water using renewable energy;
The hydrogen can then be used as a fuel, or;

It can be used to produce ammonia which can conveniently be stored until it is needed or shipped to where it is needed;
Ammonia can be used to produce a number of useful products, particularly fertilisers, or;

The ammonia can be broken down into nitrogen and hydrogen;
The hydrogen can be used as a fuel.

Related pages on this site

There is a page on Hydrogen and Energy: The production and uses, and advantages and disadvantages, of hydrogen as a fuel.

There is a page on Power to (hydrogen) Gas (P2G) in Australia.

Hydrogen to replace natural gas

In addition to using the renewably generated hydrogen in a new export industry it can simply be used as a supplement or replacement for natural gas (which cannot last for ever and produces carbon dioxide when burned).

Hydrogen powered vehicles

Hydrogen powered vehicles are very rare in Australia, but there are a number overseas. If Australia had plentiful renewably generated hydrogen they could become a very attractive economic and environmental proposition in Australia.

Hydrogen from coal

Hydrogen can also be made using coal as an energy source, and this has been proposed as a way of providing a future for coal.

Of course producing a clean energy source such as hydrogen from coal would be pointless unless the carbon dioxide from the burning of the coal was sequested. The necessary carbon capture and sequestration will make the process too expensive to compete with renewably generated hydrogen.

Electric vehicles

The number of battery-electric vehicles being built is increasing at an exponential rate. They are uncommon in Australia because of a total lack of the financial incentives that there are in many overseas countries, but there is no doubt that Australia will eventually join the trend. Of course that will increase the demand for electricity, and, even better, there should be some flexibility in the times when EVs can be charged; preferentially when renewable energy is plentifully available.

Cars are by no means the only mode of transport going electric, commuter busses will be early adopters of electric motivation; electric training aircraft are already popular, electric trucks and ships are coming.

Exporting renewable energy beyond Australia: the great opportunity

Exporting sustainable electricity

On 2017/12/01 The West Australian newspaper published a piece headlined "Pilbara solar and wind plant bigger than Greater Perth to power South-East Asia". It described a $13.2 billion wind and solar power plant in the Pilbara that was aimed at exporting power to Java (and possibly Singapore) by two massive undersea cables. The project is being called the Asia Renewable Energy Hub.

Update 2018/10/08

Giles Parkinson reported in RenewEconomy that the Pilbara consortium had increased the intended capacity of the project to 11 GW following a commitment from Macquarie Group to provide capital.

It had earlier been increased from 7.4 GW to 9 GW.

"The proposal includes up to twelve hundred 300m-high wind turbines to generate up to 5000MW, with a further 2400MW from solar panels.

...lots of sun during the day and high wind speeds in the morning, evening and night would allow the delivery of competitively priced power."
Energy storage was not mentioned in the article but it would have to be valuable in filling some of the gaps in the variable production of power from the wind and solar generators.

Another article in The West Australian, this time on 2018/09/12, talked about 1262 wind turbines and mentioned that 11,756ha of native vegetation would need to be cleared. (You'd expect at least 40 MW/km2 in the Pilbara, so 118 square kilometres of panels should have an installed capacity of about 4680 MW; wind turbines require very little land to be cleared, so these figures don't seem to 'add up'.)

Exporting hydrogen products made using sustainable electricity

Australia could become a leading nation in the export of renewable energy by using it to produce hydrogen, converting this to ammonia and shipping the ammonia overseas.

Why not just ship the hydrogen overseas? Hydrogen cannot be liquified by pressure alone, it must also be made very cold, even then it has a very low density and that means it takes up a lot of space and a lot of energy is used in refrigeration. It can be done, but it is expensive.

On the other hand ammonia is easily liquified and there is already a major international trade in ammonia; the technicalities have been solved. By exporting ammonia South Australia could further develop its huge potential wind and solar resources; we have hardly scratched the surface yet.

Aluminium smelters could become virtual batteries

Transforming the Way Electricity is Consumed During the Aluminium Smelting Process, by Mark Dorreen, Linda Wright, Geoff Matthews, Pretesh Patel and David S. Wong.

Aluminium smelters consume a huge amount of electricity. Changing them to allow their electricity consumption and aluminium production to vary according to the electricity price and availability could be a win-win situation for the aluminium industry and the renewable energy industry.

Quoting from the Abstract:

"The EnPot technology can be used to help the aluminium smelting industry be part of the solution to accommodate increased intermittency in our future renewable energy generation, post COP 21. The EnPot system provides for the first time, dynamic control of the heat balance of aluminium smelting pots across the potline, so that energy consumption and aluminium production can be increased or decreased by as much as plus or minus 30% almost instantaneously."


Some technical points on hydrogen-ammonia-hydrogen conversion

Hydrogen can be produced from water using renewable energy and electrolysis, but hydrogen is not easy to store or transport. It is easy to combine hydrogen with nitrogen to produce ammonia which can readily be stored and transported, and then it is easy to recover the hydrogen from the ammonia. Ammonia could be readily stored in a car's fuel tank and then broken down to hydrogen which could power the car in fuel cells, but there has been one catch. Any trace of ammonia in the hydrogen used in the car's fuel cells will quickly damage them.

Possible breakthrough solution to the ammonia contamination problem

The problem may have been overcome by CSIRO researchers using a breakthrough membrane that, we are told, separates very high purity hydrogen from the ammonia. On 2018/08/08 Brisbane ABC posted a piece by Lexy Hamilton-Smith on online news about the testing of two hydrogen powered cars based in the CSIRO technology.

This has the potential to provide a market for the excess renewable energy that could be generated in South Australia in the future.


High prices; the effects

Australia's power prices have been high by world standards and this fact has had a lot of publicity.

High electricity prices have encouraged householders to install solar power. They have encouraged many businesses to install solar too; in addition a number of big businesses have contracted power purchase agreements with the owners of wind farms or solar farms.

The consequence of high power prices, it seems to me, has been, and will continue to be, for more and more individuals and businesses to switch to renewable energy and therefore increasing amounts of renewable energy being built.

Cost of energy

Conventional LCOE estimates for selected technonogies
Cost of energy graph
The table lists only low emission technologies; the cost of carbon capture and storage (CCS) greatly increases the cost of fossil fuel generation.

Why have electricity prices been high in Australia?

Two of the main reasons are:
  1. The distances that power has to be transmitted in Australia are large and long high-capacity power lines are expensive;
  2. There has been a lack of effective power policy from the federal government for many years; see the effects of uncertainty, below.
Irresponsible people have blamed high power prices on renewable energy but this is plainly absurd because until very recently renewable energy has made up a very small part of Australia's energy supply.

Cost of renewable energy

The graphic on the right is from the CSIRO report "Electricity generation technology projections 2017-2050" by Jenny A Hayward and Paul W Graham, December 2017.

For a full understanding of the table the reader should refer to the CSIRO report. The CSIRO table does not include the cost of gas fired electricity generation, that is included in a costings report from the World Energy Council on another page on this site.

The graph and the CSIRO report show clearly that renewables are cheaper than new-build coal-fired (and nuclear) power stations.


Uncertainty; the effects

For years there has been a lot of uncertainty in the future of power generation in Australia. One of the responses to this is for businesses to make their own arrangements for power supply by either installing their own solar power or contracting the owners of wind or solar farms for power supplies.

So the consequence of uncertainty to the power generation industry, it seems to me, has been, and will continue to be, for more and more consumers, individuals or businesses, to switch to renewable energy and therefore increasing amounts of renewable energy being built.


How should decisions be made?

Who should make the decisions that need to be made about Australia's energy future?
How should they be made?
What aims should there be behind the decisions?

The decisions should be made by an unbiased body that is fully informed and has the required knowledge, or access to that knowledge. It follows that they should not be made by politicians.

The decisions should be made by a competent and independent body under instruction to:

  1. Take full account of the economics of the power supply system;
  2. Consider the future opportunities such as the exporting of energy in one form or another;
  3. Give a high priority to the reliability of the power supply system;
  4. Give full consideration to the available technologies and the technologies that are likely to become available in the near future;
  5. Take into account Australia's commitments and ethical responsibilities to lower greenhouse gas emissions as much as is reasonably possible within economic and technological constraints.

Related pages

On this site

Who wants renewable energy?

End of coal: why the coal industry has a very limited future.

Ethics: a subject that Energy Minister Taylor would do well to learn about.

Greenhouse/climate change: the greatest threat currently facing mankind.

Hydrogen and energy

Killer coal: how the burning of coal kills millions of people world-wide each year.

Power to Gas (P2G, renewable energy used to produced hydrogen gas) in Australia.

Pumped hydro energy storage.

Selfishness or altruism?: self or all?

SA's energy future

South Australia's success in changing toward renewable energy

Angus Taylor, Australia's gobsmackingly biased Energy Minister

Which electricity generation method should Australia choose for the future?

Which would you prefer, wind energy or fossil fuels?

Why support wind power

Why would you choose nuclear power?

Wind power opposition: almost universally dishonest.

Related pages on other sites

Hydrogen: a potential game-changer

There are more links relating to hydrogen, both on and off this site, in the related pages section of my page on hydrogen and energy.

Adelaide: a demonstration plant

"Australian-first, $11.4 million hydrogen demonstration plant to be built in Adelaide"; Media Release, Australian Gas Networks, 2018/02/21.
ARENA article on the same project.

Port Lincoln: a demonstration plant

"Renewable ammonia demonstration plant announced in South Australia"; Ammonia Industry, written by Trevor Brown, 2018/02/16.
"The plant will comprise a 15 MW electrolyzer system, to produce the hydrogen, and two technologies for converting the hydrogen back into electricity: a 10MW gas turbine and 5MW fuel cell. The plant will also include a small but significant ammonia plant, making it “among the first ever commercial facilities to produce distributed ammonia from intermittent renewable resources.”


CSIRO's National Hydrogen Roadmap sketches the opportunities in using hydrogen as a medium for the storing, transporting and consumption of energy.

Hydrogen for Australia’s future: A briefng paper for the COAG Energy Council – Prepared by the Hydrogen Strategy Group, (headed by Dr Alan Finkel, Australia's Chief Scientist), dated August 2018.

Opportunities for Australia from hydrogen exports: ACIL Allen consulting for ARENA, dated August 2018. This report's medium growth scenario estimated world-wide annual energy demand for the production of hydrogen to be: 9 TWh by 2025, 32 TWh by 2030, 85 TWh by 2040. To put this in perspective Australia's total current electricity generation in the NEM in 2018 was less than 200 TWh.

$180 million investment in renewable hydrogen energy storage in ACT: ACT Open Government, 2016/08/30.

"How Australia can use hydrogen to export its solar power around the world"; Bianca Nogrady writing in The Guardian 2017/05/19.

16 renewable hydrogen projects backed by ARENA grants, written by Sophie Vorrath in Renew Economy, 2018/09/06. "... ARENA said the R&D projects targeted by the funding covered a diverse range of solutions, with at least one from each point in the supply chain: production, hydrogen carrier, and end use."

"Japan’s hydrogen future may be fuelled by Australian renewables"; ARENA Wire, 2018/07/27.

Energy storage

"Want energy storage? Here are 22,000 sites for pumped hydro across Australia"; Andrew Blakers, Bin Lu, Matthew Stocks, 2017/09/21, The Conversation. "PHES [pumped hydro energy storage] can readily be developed to balance the grid with any amount of solar and wind power, all the way up to 100%, as ageing coal-fired power stations close."

These Australian National University researchers were awarded the prestigious Eureka Science Prize for this work in August 2018.


ANU report, 2018/09/10, "Australia’s renewable energy industry is delivering rapid and deep emissions cuts"; written by Ken Baldwin, Andrew Blakers and Matthew Stocks.

"Coal is no longer cheaper – and we'll prove it": Sanjeev Gupta, the British billionaire who saved the Whyalla steel industry knows that the future lies with renewables.

Heroes building Australia's low-carbon economy, by 350 Australia, September 2018. "Despite a lack of federal government leadership, the low-carbon economy is thriving. The stories featured in this report have been chosen by a selection committee incorporating feedback from stakeholders in the low-carbon economy – businesses, community groups, NGOs, researchers, academics, investors and individual experts."

Deloitte Insights: Global renewable energy trends; Solar and wind move from mainstream to preferred. "Technological innovation, cost efficiencies, and increasing consumer demand are driving renewables–particularly wind and solar–to be preferred energy sources. We examine seven trends that are driving this transformation."



All new roofs will generate power
Aluminium smelters could become virtual batteries
Battery/electric vehicle/grid integration
Cost: renewables are now cheapest
Current situation
Decisions; how should they be made?
Electric vehicles
Energy storage
Evaporation on pumped hydro storages
Exporting hydrogen products made using sustainable electricity
Exporting renewable energy beyond Australia: the great opportunity
Exporting sustainable electricity
Hydrogen generated from renewable energy
Hydrogen powered vehicles
Integrating generation, storage and consumption
  Battery/electric vehicle/grid integration
More interconnection
More solar PV
More wind farms
High prices; the effects
Pumped hydro energy storage
Related pages
Solar power potential
Solar thermal with storage
Uncertainty; the effects
The big unknowns
Where next?
Wind power potential

Wind home
Wind home