Thursday, November 10, 2022

The voice of energy realism

The transition from coal is limited by the lowest level of renewable energy input to the grid on windless nights… Until that rises to meet the full demand, we had better keep all the coal and gas capacity that we have at present or be prepared to eat breakfast and dinner cold.

Reading literacy appears to be in decline – and that is causing concern – but spare a thought for the prevalence of ‘wind illiteracy’. This means a lack of awareness regarding the capability of wind supply, especially at the continental scale.

Wind illiteracy has enabled the biggest peacetime policy blunder in our history – connecting intermittent energy sources from sun and wind to the grid. That mistake has been compounded by subsidising these providers and mandating the use of the product.

The result is a mortal threat to the electricity supply which is the lifeblood of modern society since the horse and buggy days. At the very least the price of power will rise sharply, crippling energy-intensive industries, wrecking household budgets, and feeding inflation in every sector of the economy where electricity is an input.

The root of the problem is the combination of extensive and protracted wind droughts, the need for continuous input to the grid to match demand, and the lack of grid-scale storage to fill the gap in supply on windless nights.

Did anyone involved in planning the transition to intermittent wind and solar power think about the wind supply in the way that irrigation planners presumably pay attention to the water supply?

Did anyone call the Bureau of Meteorology or seek advice from some wind-literate person who might have warned them about the widespread wind-lulls that occur when high-pressure systems hover for a day or three, as they do, several times a year?

These are not the result of recent climate change. In the history of the Lameroo district in the Mallee of western Victoria:

‘A drought of a very different kind occurred in March and April of 1934. Because Lameroo sits above our underground water supply, windmills (wind pumps) were used to draw water to the surface for stock water and personal use. The period from mid-March to the end of April was almost completely windless; therefore no water. Farmers were soon desperate for stock water…’

Paul Miskelly accessed the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) records of the power delivered from wind farms attached to the grid. During the calendar year 2010 the total wind output across the entire grid fell rapidly to zero or near zero on 109 occasions in the year.

He showed that these droughts occurred when high-pressure systems fell over the area, these are visible in the weather maps that show the high and low-pressure systems that move from west to east across the continent.

He flagged the need for a fleet of fast-acting gas plants with enough capacity to match the installed wind capacity, on standby mode ‘to balance the wind’s mercurial behaviour’.

In 2010, there were only 23 wind farms with less than 2GW of installed capacity and it was anticipated that the supply would become more reliable as the number of sites increased. John Morgan reported that the situation was much the same in the 12-month period from Sep 2014 to Sept 2015 when the capacity of the wind fleet was approaching 4GW.

The problem persists with almost 9GW of installed wind capacity at present. Mike O’Ceirin, an independent analyst working with the Energy Realists of Australia, has an interactive site using the AEMO records.

The records can be interrogated to the depth and duration of all the wind droughts from 2010 to the latest serious episode which lasted over 40 hours through the 7th, 8th, and 9th of August.

People need to become wind-savvy and alert to the Achilles heel of the intermittent energy system, that is, the nights when the wind is low and there is next to no renewable energy input. During these periods, no amount of additional installed capacity will help until there is grid-scale storage to save the excess power generated on sunny afternoons.

Renewable energy promoters celebrate record high inputs like the wind just before the drought in August and the solar input for an hour in South Australia on the afternoon of October 16.

AEMO recently started to give out potentially misleading information (to the wind-illiterate user) on the data dashboard with a record of Renewable Penetration. (See the tab at the top of the page.) Admittedly, it is labelled ‘highlights’ but it could mislead the unwary casual viewer who doesn’t realise that the highs are useless as long as the lows persist. It is directly comparable to the fence around the cow paddock where the gate is always open or there are permanent gaps. Doh! The cows will get out regardless of the height of the fence.


New home sales slump in Qld as rate hikes bite hard

NEW home sales in Queensland have tanked, with the Sunshine State recording the biggest drop in Australia during the last quarter.

The HIA New Home Sales report – a monthly survey of the largest volume home builders in the five largest states – has revealed that new home sales slumped 35.9 per cent last month, and 31.9 per cent over the quarter, compared to the previous quarter.

Since the same time last year, new home sales in Queensland fell 11.3 per cent.

By comparison, new homes sales in the October quarter, compared to the previous quarter, fell 22.8 per cent in Victoria, 19.6 per cent in NSW and 9.1 per cent in Western Australia.

NSW recorded the biggest decline in October, down 36.9 per cent, according to the report.

South Australia was the only state to see an uptick in new homes sales during the quarter, rising 18.8 per cent, but declining 13.9 per cent in October.

HIA chief economist Tim Reardon said that sales of new homes nationally dipped 22.8 per cent in October as the weight of increases in the cash rate slows building activity.

“Sales of new homes had already fallen 15.8 per cent nationally in the three months to the end of September, due to the increases in the cash rate starting in May 2022,” he said.

“The increase in interest rates is compounding the rise in the cost of new home construction and further reducing the capacity of borrowers to finance the build of a new home.

“But it is very clear, even before the October and November increase in the cash rate started to impact on sales, that this building boom is coming to an end.”

Mr Reardon said that the fastest increase in the cash rate in almost 30 years would see detached home building activity slow to its lowest level in a decade by 2024.

He warned that if those rate rises did not ease, the Federal Government’s goal to build one million homes within five years would be “very difficult”.

And that’s not the news that buyers, or renters in particular, will want to hear as the state grapples with arguably its worst rental crisis in living memory.

The latest REIQ Vacancy Report, released on Wednesday, revealed that there was now “virtually nowhere to go” in some parts of Queensland, with vacancy rates dropping to just 0.1 per cent in three regions – Goondiwindi, Southern Downs and the South Burnett.

And it is not much better in Maryborough or the Tablelands, where the vacancy rate is 0.2 per cent.

There were just five regions with vacancy rates above 1 per cent – Noosa (1%), Gladstone (1%), Isaac (1.1%), Mount Isa (1.3%) and the Bay Islands (4.3%), which was the only region to fall above the healthy rage of between 2.6 and 3.5 per cent.

REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella said it was unlikely vacancy rates would see any significant shifts in the foreseeable future due to complex supply and demand constraints.

She said that the State Government had identified that Queensland had 55,000 fewer rental dwellings than expected based on historical trends and forward projections.

“We know there are various obstacles which have been holding back our state’s housing supply and pathways to home ownership,” she said.

“This is what needs to be rectified in order to restore some balance to the market and address the true cause of the crisis – while also finding remedies for the symptoms.”

The HIA report shows that new home sales in Queensland peaked in December 2020 and again in March 2021, but they have been falling sharply since July.

At the same time, several developers have shelved projects in recent months, while a host of building firms have gone bust due to rising construction costs and trade shortages.


Sydney council warns residents against taking dangerous risks to charge EVs

A Sydney council has warned residents against running power cords onto the street to charge their electric cars.

It comes after several reports that residents had run hazardous extension cords from inside their homes out onto the street through trees and over public footpaths.

In one incident, a resident hooked a power cord through a tree over public land to charge their electric car.

Mosman Council was forced to issue a public warning urging residents to use the three publicly available fast charging stations in the suburb instead.

“Connecting power to a vehicle using this method is potentially unsafe to the public,” a Mosman council spokesman told The Daily Telegraph.

Sydneysiders took to social media to share their thoughts on the bizarre charging techniques.

“Still waiting eagerly for the first huge slip and trip injury claim against a council for allowing cables to be lying all over the footpaths,” they wrote.

Other commentators noted the lack of charging stations for electric vehicles throughout the city.

“Who would have thought … No infrastructure. But a race to get into overpriced throw away transportation … Now that’s moving forward,” one user wrote.

A NSW Fire and Rescue spokesman said failing to use an approved charging system would add increased fire risk to homes.


Cultural training for teachers branded a ‘form of racism’

Aboriginal senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has branded “cultural training” for teachers a form of racism.

In Senate estimates hearings on Thursday, the Coalition senator criticised an “Indigenous cultural competency report’’ produced by the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership, warning that it ­assumed Aboriginal students could not learn like other ­children.

“I’m surprised by the extensive work that’s been done around cultural competency and cultural safety,’’ she said. “I can’t see it as being of great educational benefit to students, and it seems to make life kind of difficult for teachers at the same time.

“I’d like to see AITSL use its resources to give teachers pedagogical competency rather than fixate on this separatist idea of cultural competency, which seems to imply that Indigenous students don’t learn the same as non-Indigenous peers.

“To me that sounds a bit like, well, racism.”

Senator Price, a former deputy mayor of Alice Springs, said she was struck by the report’s statement that the “legacy of colonisation’’ undermined the rights of Indigenous students to a fair and just education, and that “Australian education systems were never designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’’. “Can you please elaborate specifically on how colonisation is undermining Indigenous students’ education?’’ she asked AITSL executives.

The AITSL representatives took the question on notice.

Senator Price was referring to an AITSL report on Indigenous cultural competency, released in June as part of its Building a Culturally Responsive Australian Teaching Workforce project.

The report recommends teachers connect with Aboriginal families in their communities, rather than expecting them to meet at school, and includes a suggestion that Indigenous children be tested in their home languages, rather than English.

“For many, education is the means through which dreams and aspirations are realised,’’ the report states. “For others, though, education is something to be ­endured for little or no gain.

“The legacy of colonisation has undermined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students’ access to their cultures, identities, histories and languages.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have not had access to a complete, relevant, and responsive education.’’

The report recommends that teachers and principals be made more “self-aware’’ of their attitudes and assumptions towards Indigenous students, and be given “self-reflection tools to support them to increase their awareness of the assumptions underlying their personal identity in culture’’.

“The cultural responsiveness of the teacher is ultimately a function of their world view and implicit biases,’’ it states.

The report cites an anonymous submission calling for Indigenous students to be tested in their first language. And it calls on teachers to work with families “beyond the school gate’’ instead of expecting them to meet “on school grounds’’.

“Building relationships is a necessary part of being an active member in any community and, crucially, a lack of relationships and trust will often lead to students not attending school and becoming disengaged from education,’’ it states.

“Teachers need to engage with students and their families beyond the school gate to understand their world and what they bring with them to school instead of the expectation to meet on school grounds.’’

Indigenous teenagers are four times more likely to drop out of high school before finishing Year 10, census data shows.




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