Triple extinction event: dinosaurs > coal > Liberal Party

Poor old Do-coal Malcolm is neither Arthur nor Martha, via AFR:

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has mounted a defence of coal-powered electricity, saying those who think the resource doesn’t have a future are “delusional”.

Addressing the Liberal National Party state convention in Brisbane, Mr Turnbull hit out at the state Labor government’s “reckless” plans to ensure Queensland’s energy supply is carbon neutral by 2050 and said Australia had an interest in ensuring the future of coal.

“Those people who say coal and other fossil fuels have no future are delusional and they fly in the face of all of the economic forecasts,” he told the crowd of party faithful.

His sentiments were greeted with applause by the crowd, who had a day earlier passed a resolution urging a future state LNP government to promote and support the coal industry.

He went on, via AAP:

The convention is also considering a resolution to call on the Turnbull government to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, which is likely to be debated on Sunday.

Mr Turnbull devoted a significant portion of his 20-minute address to energy policy, warning of the impact of renewables on power prices and the security of the electricity grid.

He said Queensland’s efforts to source 50 per cent of its electricity supply by 2030 would see it follow the path of South Australia, which has been hit by high prices and supply issues.

“We know what happens if you allow left-wing ideology and politics to drive your energy policy. You get unreliable and unaffordable power, and business is driven out of your State,” he told the crowd.

“Now, what the Palaszczuk government is seeking to do here is undermine your competitiveness in the interests of chasing green votes in the inner city and you can’t allow them to get away with it, and we won’t.” He said as the world’s largest exporter of coal, Australia had an interest in demonstrating that clean-coal could play a role in a low-emissions energy future.

Mr Turnbull later told reporters ideology had no role to play in the energy policy debate.

“The critical thing to do with energy is to plan it, you’ve got to be businesslike about it,” he told reporters on the Gold Coast. “That’s why I say our policy is based on engineering and economics, not on ideology and politics.”

What policy? Turnbull’s Finkel Report isn’t a policy, it’s a report. Even it says coal is doomed.

The answer to the question “does coal have a future” depends upon how you define the word “future”. If you see it in geological time then it does not. If you see it as a few decades, yes, coal has a future. If you see it as any longer than that then you’re as extinct as the dinosaurs that make up the coal.

The answer to the question is now out of the hands of policy. Economics is the key driver and it is unequivocal that coal has no future beyond a few decades.  Here are the current prices for electricity generation:


Utility Solar at 6c is now in front of coal, and in front of natural gas at Australian and Asian prices. Natural gas is still cheaper in the US.

The battery prices shown here are for shifting solar in particular. This is not the same as the current energy crisis in South Australia – that is a matter of smoothing intermittent sources and has different economics.  Gas peaking plants (which are used for intermittent power) run at about $0.20-$0.30 per kWh and the battery costs above would be higher for intermittent use. Most recent large-scale studies have shown that batteries are cost effective for the grid at the margin to smooth the peaks and troughs, but not for widespread adoption.  The 100-day Tesla batteries would have the same profile.

But, here is the MB’s outlook for five years:


If battery and solar manufacturing prices keep falling 20% per annum, slower than their current rate, then they will be cheaper than coal at utility scale within five years. That’s your killer app for renewables with base load and intermittency questions answered.

Coal and gas will not cease to be used when we hit parity,  it is just that the price will be limited to no more than solar plus batteries, and that cost will fall year after year. Any investment in these companies should be done with falling commodity price expectations – i.e. value them in run-off. There may be short-term shortages/price spikes, but these are selling opportunities.

For a Liberal Party with a supposed nose for business it is pretty stupid yoking itself to a rapidly dying business model.

Why does it do it then, I hear you ask? Well, one reason is it is paid to. Another is its troglodyte ideology. But most important is politics, back to Turnbull:

“We know what happens if you allow left-wing ideology and politics to drive your energy policy. You get unreliable and unaffordable power, and business is driven out of your State,” he told the crowd.

“Now, what the Palaszczuk government is seeking to do here is undermine your competitiveness in the interests of chasing green votes in the inner city and you can’t allow them to get away with it, and we won’t.” He said as the world’s largest exporter of coal, Australia had an interest in demonstrating that clean-coal could play a role in a low-emissions energy future.

There is a major reason why this speech is happening in QLD. Malcolm is chasing One Nation votes, the heartland of which sits right on top of Australia’s largest coal basins where unemployment is high. Both he and the the Palaszczuk government are already busily spending taxpayer dough on coal pork for Adani and, next it seems, will be a few publicly-owned coal power stations for the region.

That’s the thing, you see. The energy paradigm has inverted, public subsidy has shifted from supporting renewables to giving coal a future. To wit, via The Guardian:

Conservation groups registered as eligible for tax deductible donations, as they do every year. But this year the correspondence is different, in a disturbing way.

In the past the groups, which include all the big names such as the Australian Conservation Society, The Wilderness Society, Lock the Gate, Greenpeace etc, as well as small local conservation organisations, were simply asked to reveal the total expenditure from their public fund. This year they have also been asked to break down their expenditure into the amounts spent on “on ground environmental remediation”, “campaign and advocacy”, “research” and other administration.

It sounds like a boring technicality but it seems to represent a significant victory in the long-running campaign by the mining industry and conservative politicians to hobble advocacy for the environment.

Coal has a future as it is wound down into the great renewable transformation. And as a giant succubus at the public teat.

Exactly who is delusional here?


  1. ResearchtimeMEMBER

    And the crowd stands to its feet and appalude’s… in Albert Edwards excellent recent missive, he suggest something quite different… suggesting that “while politics in the West reels from a decade of economic crisis and stagnation, asset prices continue to surge on the back of continued rapid growth in G3 QE. In an age of “radical uncertainty” how long will it be before angry citizens tire of blaming an impotent political system for their ills and turn on the main culprits for their poverty – unelected and virtually unaccountable central bankers? I expect central bank independence will be (and should be) the next casualty of the current political turmoil.”

    Wolfgang Munchau goes further suggesting “The French electorate has been more extreme than any other. It managed to eradicate virtually the entire political establishment in a short sequence of elections. This brutality outstrips anything we have seen in the US or the UK, where the two traditional parties still dominate politics. The French are in a process of exhausting all their alternatives. It is painful to think what they might do if they ever become disillusioned with Emmanuel Macron.

    “The financial crisis turned what outwardly seemed a stable political and financial environment into what mathematicians and physicists would call a “dynamical” system. The main characteristic of such systems is radical uncertainty. Such systems are not necessarily chaotic — though some may be — but they are certainly unpredictable. You cannot model them… Opinion polls are becoming less relevant..

    • I think one will find the drama with central banks is dependent on the dominate economic ideology, during the period in question, made manifold by the same in the political sphere e.g. pushing on a string whilst the polies distribute favors and await manna from above.

    • oliver47MEMBER

      The politics of energy and carbon emissions = “economic crisis and stagnation”….I can’t see how CB’s can be blamed…..nor, for the French temperament & revolutionary impulses.

  2. Next, these nutters will try to shut down the SA aluminium recycling program to give bauxite mining a boost.

    • 10c a can back to 0c a can, please!

      It’s not the bauxite, either, but the energy. Recycling aluminium uses about 10% of the energy of mining & refining new. Less recycling = more coal. YEAH!

      • I know that aluminium takes an enormous amount of electricity to make from bauxite.

        I actually think people should be fined for throwing aluminium cans in the rubbish bin.

  3. Jake GittesMEMBER

    Mal doing a stump speech for the choirs of believers. He’s following Trump in West Virginia. The best option is for the Liberal party to be incinerated and the carbon to be exported.

    • In all honesty – burning them would be a major ecological disaster – incinerating all those arseholes will release large amounts of arsenic. The only way to get rid of them is burying them alive, in the Mariannas Trench firing them at the dark side of the moon and blowing them up there. That would be a fitting start for the Australian Space Program…

  4. azxylonMEMBER

    Clean coal??? Yet more aussiemoronic anthropogenic rhetoric courtesy of the PM’s mindless minders. Careful. Gaia is watching all this nonsense with a keen eye and is just waiting to pounce.

  5. BenjaminMEMBER

    Maybe we can give asbestos another crack in the building materials sector while we’re at it!

  6. Tassie TomMEMBER

    The calculations for levelised cost of energy for PV in particular is quite probably already well out of date.

    It cites onshore wind as costing 3 cents per kWh. I know that the capital cost to install wind is about $2 per watt ($6 million per Vestas 3MW tower and associated infrastructure), and in most of Australia’s wind farms wind has a capacity factor of about 1/3. (Capacity factor is slightly better down here in Tassie – almost 40%).

    So taking these numbers, and there are 8760 hours in a year, every kilowatt of installed wind capacity (which costs $2000 in capital costs) would produce 2920 kWh of energy per year. At 3 cents per kWh (as stated), this would earn $87.60 per year, meaning that the wind towers would have a payback of 23 years for the purpose of the LCOE calculation.

    Now let’s look at PV. Recently there has been a small PV array built in Queensland which is essentially flat – no tilt (actually, small tilts in opposite directions), with pretty much 100% ground coverage. This design would have a capacity factor of around 15% (maybe higher in Queensland), hence would produce 1314 kWh per year per kilowatt of installed capacity. This was built for $1 per watt ($10 million for a 10MW array).

    In 23 years each kilowatt of installed capacity would produce 30,222 kWh of energy, so dividing the $1000/kW capital costs by 30,222 gives 3.3 cents per kWh.

    So large scale solar can and has been built for a LCOE of 3.3 cents per kWh – almost the same as wind – not 6 cents as cited in the table.

    Of course, one wants to produce the greatest amount of energy for the least amount of power, or else it means more storage is required to absorb surplus power and (along with “peaking” plants) to fill in the gaps, so wind with its greater capacity factor still has it over PV from this regard.

    Tassie is different – in Tassie we have streamflow hydro over the winter months, so one really wants to maximise the capacity factor of PV/wind over the summer months, so PV might actually have it over wind down here.

    • codeazureMEMBER

      Thanks for the price update – it really is getting crazy cheap. That would seem to put Tas in a good position to become a very renewable user in future (assuming non-troglodyte govt at some point). Historically, this kind of futile resistance will hold out for a while trying to deny reality as long as vested interests can, but when it does eventually break we should be in a good position a few decades from now

  7. DarkMatterMEMBER

    Put a big battery at the distribution transformer point, solar panels on large roofs like supermarkets, and keep the power wiring to residential as is. That seems to be a reasonable way to phase in solar/battery.

    • Tassie TomMEMBER

      What you say makes perfect sense.

      However, right now it is not in anyone’s financial interest to do this. This is primarily because the AEMC’s market rules do not support it – in fact they actively penalise this sort of thing.

      If energy was dirt cheap at night or when the wind was blowing hard, then your battery proposal would probably stack up financially and would be implemented. The AEMC rules prevent this though, so in the present state of play it could cost more to fill the battery up than what is received by emptying it.

  8. surflessMEMBER

    Last week, the liberal/national party is reporting declining membership, so who is there, the base white aging men?

  9. Definition of ‘Conservative” is to stay the same, unchanging, maintaining the status quo.
    Unfortunately the world is changing at a rate unequaled in human history and to try to remain unchanged is to be left behind.
    The polity expects a government to lead, to be ahead of the game, to be on top of and plan for the future.
    Pfft, and people wonder why recent Australian governments are on the nose.
    Tweede Dum or Tweedle Dee….what a choice?

  10. MarcusOzMEMBER

    quoting levelised costs to support what you want to be true is misleading – but then this site is not noted for really understanding energy. Comparing LCOEs is like comparing marginal costs of production – it doesn’t really tell you true costs

    You need to look at systems costs – and there it is a quite different story

    To quote some real experts
    “Despite the strengths of LCOE as a metric – it is easy to understand and widely used – it has some shortcomings, too. Namely, it leaves out geographic variability, changes with seasons and usually ignores the cost of environmental impacts such as the cost of carbon emissions. This metric is a bit too simple when comparing variable wind and solar generators to power plants that you can turn on and off at will, such as those fueled by uranium, coal and natural gas.

    Toward this point, here is a key quote from Lazard’s press release for their LCOE Analysis 10.0, issued December 15, 2016:
    “Even though alternative energy is increasingly cost-competitive and storage technology holds great promise, alternative energy systems alone will not be capable of meeting the baseload generation needs of a developed economy for the foreseeable future. Therefore, the optimal solution for many regions of the world is to use complementary traditional and alternative energy resources in a diversified generation fleet.”

    IF you want to actually understand energy costs I suggest you read these to begin with. The IEA has now acknowledged that system costs are what matter – not LCOE