Alex and Scott Armstrong have proposed to build Australia's largest solar farm at Lower Wonga near Gympie at a cost of $2 billion.
Alex and Scott Armstrong have proposed to build Australia's largest solar farm at Lower Wonga near Gympie at a cost of $2 billion. Scott Kovacevic

Whatever coal has given us, it isn't cheap power

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

I COULDN'T have agreed more with the headline of Kerry Latter's letter (The Gympie Times, 6/5/2017), "Reliable, affordable power is critical”.

But on reading it I found, sadly, that that was just about all I agreed with.

CLICK HERE: Investors line up to get in on Gympie region's $2 billion solar farm

Mr Latter, who is CEO of Canegrowers, Mackay, is evidently one of the considerable army of people who base their opinions on what they hear from the noisier sort of politicians (Coalition Federal, Labor Queensland) not to mention the mass-circulation media (no names mentioned), with even the ABC getting into the act of late.

We seem as a people to have the coal-is-good mantra stamped into our consciousness.

There is an appetite in the community for renewable energy such as what will be produced through the $2 billion solar farm planned for the Gympie region.
There is an appetite in the community for renewable energy such as what will be produced through the $2 billion solar farm planned for the Gympie region. snvv

May I quote the key sentence as I see it, from Mr Latter's piece?: "I worry that the idea that Queensland could achieve a target of 50% of electricity generated by renewable by 2030 is more about ideology, than delivering cost-effective power to Queenslanders.”

In other words, coal equals cheap, renewables equals expensive.

But hold on; has he looked at the components of Queensland's power generation mix?

If so, he would see that coal is by far the biggest player here, as in New South Wales, dwarfing renewable at this stage.

Whatever coal may have done, it hasn't given us cheap power.

Whatever coal generated electricity may have done, it has not given us cheap power, says this letter writer.
Whatever coal generated electricity may have done, it has not given us cheap power, says this letter writer. David Davies

Mr Latter says so himself.

Renewables, on the other hand (we are talking about solar here, Queensland not having a significant wind resource) have undergone a price slide over the last decade or so that few could have imagined, one that has put solar power - with a fair component of battery storage - in a position to compete with new-build coal-fired.

Old-build coal is a different matter, of course, being fully paid off, but these stations won't last forever.

Think Hazelwood. And this brings me to another point. It is all well and good to talk about building "new generation” coal power stations. The problem is, who is going to do it?

Cutting coal underground at Oaky Creek Mine.
Photo Contributed
Cutting coal underground at Oaky Creek Mine. Photo Contributed Contributed

Anyone who's looked at this sector lately knows that, here as elsewhere in the developed world, there is little or no investor appetite for such, absent big taxpayer subsidies, which I don't think would be very sensible.

"Stranded assets” has an ugly sound to it.

Even if new-build conventional coal manages to compete for a while with solar and storage, the additional on-costs of ultra-super-critical and CCS technology will ensure that it loses the race before getting to the starting barrier.

And all this for a whole "27% cut in greenhouse gas emissions”!

How much in the way of emissions do rooftop solar or solar farms put out?

All in all, Mr Latter seems to be, for an industry leader, a man who struggles somewhat to engage with his subject matter and to see the big picture.

Perhaps he should get out more, talk and listen to more people.

Ian Jones,

Eel Creek Rd, Gympie region. 

Gympie Times


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