The arguments against renewable energy are not just without scientific basis, they lack economic credibility.
There are lies, damned lies and Alan Jones statistics. The figure with which the climate change sceptic shock jock misled the million-odd viewers of the ABC’s Q&A program last Monday was a whopper.
Jones was arguing against renewable energy, on the basis of cost.
“Eighty per cent of Australian energy comes from coal, coal-fired power, and it’s about $79 a kilowatt hour,” he said. “Wind power is about $1502 a kilowatt hour.”
The statement was spectacularly wrong, in a couple of ways. First and least because he confused kilowatt hours with megawatt hours, which made all his figures wrong by a factor of 1000.
But even allowing that this confusion was a slip of the tongue, he exaggerated the cost of wind power twentyfold. By Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s most recent calculations a new wind farm in Australia would cost $74 a megawatt hour.
“The reason many countries now have strict efficiency standards is not just about emissions reductions but because it makes economic sense.”
“A new large-scale photovoltaic project would cost $105,” says the firm’s Australian head, Kobad Bhavnagri. “A new coal-fired power station would cost $119. And a new gas base-load station would cost $92. So both wind and solar are already cheaper than coal.”
What’s more, says Bhavnagri, the cost advantage of non-polluting energy is rapidly increasing. “Wind is already the cheapest, and solar PV [photovoltaic panels] will be cheaper than gas in around two years, in 2017. We project that wind will continue to decline in cost, though at a more modest rate than solar. Solar will become the dominant source in the longer term.”
These are not wishful predictions, as other work by Bloomberg has shown. Just three months ago, it released an analysis of global spending on new electricity generation capacity, showing the world now is adding more renewables each year than coal, natural gas and oil combined. The tipping point was passed in 2013 when 143 gigawatts of renewables was added, compared with 141 of fossil fuels. By 2030, on current trends, renewables will be coming on stream at four times the current rate.
Clearly much of the world sees that the future lies in renewables, even if Alan Jones does not. In his view, renewable energy is an expensive solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. He is on the record describing climate change as “a hoax” and “witchcraft”.
It is a view unsupported by scientific fact, but one shared by many in Australia’s current government, possibly including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has previously voiced his scepticism about anthropogenic global warming.
Just six years ago Abbott described climate science as “absolute crap”. More recently he has disavowed that view, but a fuller reading of that 2009 quote gives reason to doubt his change of heart. His quote continued: “However, the politics of this are tough for us. Eighty per cent of people believe climate change…”
Since winning office Abbott has scrapped the previous Labor government’s emissions trading scheme, and moved to demolish most of the modest architecture that had been set up to combat climate change. If it were up to him, Australia would have abandoned any target for renewable energy. The senate blocked much of his agenda and as things now stand, Australia has a target of getting about 23.5 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
Australia remains the only developed country yet to announce what plan it will take to the global climate summit in Paris this year, for action beyond 2020.
Press link for more: Mike Seccombe | thesaturdaypaper.com.au