Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Clive Bibby: Let’s not make the same mistakes


There are lessons to be learned from the energy crisis that has already and is about to engulf most of the countries in the Western World. 

It is somewhat ironic that those who have trumpeted their allegiance to the IPCC mantra most fervently are those who now find themselves “up the creek without a paddle”. I find it nauseating to watch the same governments facing blackouts of damaging proportions floundering around in panic mode as they try to find answers to a crisis of their own making. 

It is also a timely reminder that this country isn’t witnessing the same calamity only because our energy supply is already approximately 70% clean and until recently, the backup generators were powered by reliable fuels. 

Because of astute planning of past governments, we enjoy the luxury of taking time to make the right choices as to what type of reliable generation is introduced to make us 100% pure. 

If ever there was a time when we should learn from the mistakes of others, it is now. 

It is timely that we take stock of the real options available to us in order to ensure that our most efficient energy supplies (particularly those that have multiple end use capacity) make up the bulk of our alternative “back ups” to the existing system.

Fortunately, we can make good use of the limited time available to us when making the adjustments to our plans that need to be made that will ensure we don’t suffer from the self inflicted wounds that will have lasting effects on the lives of so many innocent people. 

And the reasons why this is happening are not hard to find. 

Almost every western nation that had previously depended heavily on the burning of fossil fuels for the bulk of their energy supply are now watching helplessly as the chickens come home to roost because of what is now seen as irrational and precipitate decisions of governments competing to be the “teachers pet”in the battle against climate change.

It is important to note that the one standout European country that will survive this emergency relatively unscathed is France that has wisely chosen to maintain its 70% dependence on nuclear energy supply when others like Great Britain and Germany have unbelievably rushed to decommission their nuclear generators, replacing them with the unreliable wind and solar alternatives. 

They are now facing the prospect of firing up their old coal powered generators in order to prevent the deaths of thousands of elderly citizens who will either freeze or succumb to the heat waves. This rearguard action (one likely to be repeated in Australia and America as well) will be promoted as being a necessary measure that will be implemented only until we can depend on the the alternative developments of wind and solar fields. 

Depend! You have to be joking. 

The message New Zealand should be taking out of this disaster is that we should be able to depend on our multi faceted energy supply system 100% in all weather conditions.

Given the experiences of our northern hemisphere neighbours, having a system that can’t guarantee supply at peak demand periods will not be an acceptable proposition to the kiwi public even if it is backed up by a call to “be kind to one another”. Apologies for getting it wrong will not be forthcoming. 

On a final note, and please forgive me if l offer once again a suggestion of what we should do next. 

Our fresh water reserves should be the ones used to guarantee the bulk of our supply of green energy.

If the storage facilities are built as multi purpose additions to our current capacity (ie use the water for hydro electric power generation and to supply the urban and rural reticulation networks) we will have the most reliable, efficient, no polluting supply covering all the bases on the planet. And it is doable even within our limited economy. 

But don’t bet on it. My guess is that It will be like a dog returning to its vomit.

Clive Bibby is a commentator, consultant, farmer and community leader, who lives in Tolaga Bay.


Robert Arthur said...

How countries allowed themselves to become dependent on Russian gas is beyond comprehension.

DeeM said...

NZ is an anomaly when it comes to power generation.
We have a very small population and a very large number of hydro dams. For more populous countries you can't build enough dams and it's far more efficient and reliable to use energy dense conventional stations.

Hydro is the most reliable renewable form of generation by a mile with that big storage dam acting as a potential battery.
Of course, it's at the mercy of a dry year or years and a lot more water has to be run through a turbine compared to the amount of coal or gas or, best of all by miles, nuclear fuel to generate the same amount of power. Because like ALL renewables they have a very low energy density.

But compared to wind and solar - which are the absolute worst forms of generation from a reliability, energy efficiency, and cost point of view - it ranks much better.

Our current government and climate change minister would follow the exact ruinous path taken by the UK and much of Europe if they get the chance.
That's because they are ideological half-wits who worship at the altar of climate alarmism and they are impervious to reason, logic, science and engineering.
Not the kind of people who should ever be allowed to run a country!

oneblokesview said...

If you thing either Labour or Labour Light Governments are going to make sensible suggestions about increased energy availability in NZ, then I suggest you are delusional.

Both shades of our Socialist Leaning Governments are so woke that they want to be seen by the big boys to be doing good. Ie slobbering at the thought of Climate change and the need for Wind & Solar.

I sometimes wish we had a Chinese or Indian Government who realise their people need lots of reliable energy to get out of poverty and see the Climate Change hysteria for what it is...Ideological nonsense.

Both of these countries are building Coal & nuclear stations as fast as they can.
At the same time working on cleaning up pollution.

The Greens are still stuck in the 19th Century trying to convince us that any new Coal fired generators are terrible pollutants. THEY ARE NOT

Ray S said...

True words from Clive and DeeM.
Until the country as a whole stands up and says "enough is enough" we will NEVER see any more hydro. The resource consent process will make the result untenable plus ownership of water, lake and river beds is yet to be determined.

As pointed out, solar and wind are unreliable in the extreme, geothermal is OK but has limited output and royalties are paid for steam from under "maori land".

In the short term, coal fired generation should be base load with hydro on standby for immediate use should it be required.
We import coal to burn at Huntly and at the same time export coal to China.
Go figure.

The climate hysteria has many countries in its grip and will not let go any time soon.
A weak government like ours would have no remorse following a complete collapse
of the economy and society.

New Zealand is not yet ready for Nuclear.

Ewan McGregor said...

I find it hard to follow the argument in this piece, but if it’s to dismiss the role of solar and wind energy for the future, then it couldn’t be more wrong.
In terms of energy supply this country is the luckiest in the world, and certainly, much more so than the ‘lucky country’ across the ditch. The great portion of our power is supplied sustainably through hydro and (hopefully sustainable) geothermal generation. In addition, as an alternative domestic heating source we generally have access to wood supplies. Nevertheless, our small population is increasing, as, accordingly, will be our demand for electricity. But our hydro and geothermal opportunity is all but exhausted. So what will be the source of our extra energy?
Obviously not fossil fuels. Apart from its polluting effect, it is a finite resource, and will eventually run out. In the meantime, it will become increasing expensive, be subject to politically disrupted supply, and for us, will need to be imported, gas apart, but we shouldn’t waste that precious resource on electricity generation.
The answer is obvious; solar and wind. Sustainable? What is more sustainable than the rays of the sun, or the blowing of the wind? Of course, the sun doesn’t always shine or the wind always blow, but those sources can be coordinated with our existing hydro supply. In any case, there is such a thing as a battery, the technology of which is rapidly developing. (I have just purchased a battery-powered chainsaw. Who would have thought!)
If solar and wind power so warrant such dismissal, why are solar panels/farms and wind farms being developed right around the world, including here. Another major wind farm is currently being constructed on a range alongside the Napier-Taupo highway. Wind farms obviously work. The Manawatu one has been going for over two decades, during which is has been increasingly expanded, and it is rare to see the blades stationary, even when there is no wind down on the flats.
Also, alongside Highway 5 nearer Taupo and a thousand-hectare solar farm is planned. Solar power is being generated all around the world. This is especially so in Australia where it is normal for new houses to be constructed with solar panels on the roof, heavily subsidised by government. Three million roofs over there now have sola panels, and they are being installed at the rate of 3,000 a week.
There is no doubt that in terms of energy generation, solar and wind is the way of the future, aided by advanced battery technology. Nuclear apart, not an option here for as far ahead as we can see, there is simply is no alternative. I really don’t think that it is for us Kiwis to presume to advise the political and commercial leaders in other countries as to what options they should pursue, let along to offer criticism as to their actions, laced with doses of ridicule.
But it is not just domestic and industrial power that we will source from these new alternatives. It is likely that they will supply power, stored in batteries, the nation’s, indeed the world’s, motorcar fleet within a couple of decades. California, the land of the motorcar if ever there was, is mandating the phasing out of petrol-powered cars by the mid-2030s.

DeeM said...

Ewan McGregor
You obviously don't read the Net Zero watch articles regularly published on this website...or just dismiss them as climate denier propaganda.

If it's the former, give it a go. They're written by real engineers and scientists who know what they're talking about and back up their arguments with REAL DATA. You're in for a hell of a shock. of the rolling power brownouts and blackouts, which are going to get much worse when they have only EVs and some wind farms and solar panels to rely on.

But hey, ever heard of batteries. We have actually Ewan. And here's a little FACT for you. The known world reserves of Copper, Lithium, Cobalt etc aren't enough to make the number of batteries to store power for more than one day...just for the USA.
And, even if we had unlimited supplies it would take about 500 years to make enough batteries. Which by the way use up 9 times more energy to manufacture than they ever store in their lifetime.
How green is that?

Also, there would be heavy metal mines starting up all over the world using up huge amounts of energy, which would all come from fossil fuels because windmills just don't hack it. Not so good for global emissions.

You see Ewan. There's no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to energy. Wind and solar are extremely weak forms of power generation, are highly intermittent and unreliable. They take up a huge amount of land and far more resources to build per MW of power generated... and their lifespan is less than half that of a conventional station.

Anonymous said...

Good article Clive and also some really good comments. As an engineer who worked on the last Nuclear power plant built in the UK many many moons ago it saddens me to see Europe and the UK ending up in such a mess because the Politicians didn't have the brains or balls to stand up to the climate nutbags. Cowardice of conviction and lazy thinking has got Europe in this mess, lets hope NZ can learn a lesson and not go this way.

DeeM is correct, batteries are not the answer, we cannot store electricity in such vast quantities, Power must be consumed as it is generated or the national grid would fall over.

Thermal Power is the backbone of every major modern society. If you doubt this watch what is going to happen in UK & Europe over Winter when the lights go out. Cold hungry people are angry violent people. The Governments are shitting themselves about riots and mass disorder. All of this could have been avoided if the governments actually started talking and listening to Power Engineers who actually build and maintain the electricity system instead of fawning over 16 year old schoolgirls and their emotional outbursts.

There is a real cost for not understanding how stuff works and unfortunately Europe is paying the price.

GERRY said...

Hi Ewen, the problem with solar and wind is storage. The belief appears to be that due to ' new technology ' batteries will decrease in size much like computers have. Unfortunately all batteries today are powered by chemical reactions which are just not compressible.........if they were ( after a 100 years of trying ) car batteries today would be minuscule. Only coal , oil, gas and nuclear store very efficiently !