Monday, July 7, 2014

UPDATED: From The Mound Of Sound: A Basis For Optimism



The Mound writes:

Hi Lorne. I spotted this article in the ‘comments’ section of The Guardian. It’s been a while since I heard anything this encouraging on the climate change front:

It’s something akin to an epidemic. In the Australian state of Queensland, solar power has become cheaper than coal-generated electricity. In fact, solar power would be less expensive than burning coal if coal was somehow provided free. Writing in The Guardian, Giles Parkinson explains Australia’s rooftop solar revolution.

“Last week, for the first time in memory, the wholesale price of electricity in Queensland fell into negative territory – in the middle of the day.

“For several days the price, normally around $40-$50 a megawatt hour, hovered in and around zero. Prices were deflated throughout the week, largely because of the influence of one of the newest, biggest power stations in the state – rooftop solar.

“’Negative pricing’ moves, as they are known are not uncommon. But they are supposed to happen at night, when most of the population is mostly asleep, demand is down, and operators of coal fired generators are reluctant to switch off. So they pay others to pick up their output.

“That’s not supposed to happen at lunchtime. Daytime prices are supposed to reflect higher demand, when people are awake, office buildings are in use, factories are in production. That’s when fossil fuel generators would normally be making most of their money.

“The influx of rooftop solar has turned this model on its head. There is 1,100MW of it on more than 350,000 buildings in Queensland alone (3,400MW on 1.2m buildings across the country). It is producing electricity just at the time that coal generators used to make hay (while the sun shines).

“The impact has been so profound, and wholesale prices pushed down so low, that few coal generators in Australia made a profit last year. Hardly any are making a profit this year. State-owned generators like Stanwell are specifically blaming rooftop solar.”


Parkinson explains that even if coal was free, the energy providers would still have to charge 19 cents per kWh to cover grid costs and overhead whereas rooftop solar is achieving costs of 12-18 cents per kWh and is expected to come down as low as 10 cents per kWh. The forecast is for solar to be installed in 75 per cent of houses and 90 per cent of corporate buildings by 2023.

King Coal still has bags of influence with the neo-conservative Abbott Government and the industry is doing what it can to staunch the spread of solar rooftop power. Fortunately the fossil fuelers and their political minions are waging a battle that’s already lost.

UPDATE: I thought I should update this with an item I found at the Sydney Morning Herald discussing how Australia's rooftop solar dynamic is leaving conventional electricity providers facing a death spiral.

3 comments:

  1. I thought I should update this with an item I found at the Sydney Morning Herald discussing how Australia's rooftop solar dynamic is leaving conventional electricity providers facing a death spiral.

    http://www.smh.com.au/national/the-death-spiral-scaring-electricity-providers-20140706-zsy76.html

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  2. That makes this little bit o' Koch news all the more salient then:

    http://www.alternet.org/environment/now-solar-capacity-soaring-koch-brothers-demand-tax-sun

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  3. Absolutely, Anon. Much as it pains me to say it, they do have a point albeit a narrow one. With today's technology, many solar users remain connected to the grid for off-peak power. Grid maintenance costs are shared among consumers. The Australians are looking into a two-tier grid charge. The Sidney Morning Herald article describes a system where a low rate would be instituted for small users with larger customers paying a higher, per kWh rate. The point is to prevent low-consumption customers who for whatever reason can't go solar from getting hammered with ever greater grid fees as others switch to rooftop solar.

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