What is this shift to wind & solar?

How many times have you read something like this? Written by an experienced member of the press corps.

The shift to renewable energy is unstoppable and accelerating. The role for gas and coal will rapidly diminish as renewable technology advances to ensure a cheap, clean and reliable supply of power.

Fact checking: Where in the world has that happened, apart from Norway, which is practically built for hydroelectric power and the economy floats on exports of oil, gas and herrings?

Mark Mills reports that the reduction in the contribution of hydrocarbons to worldwide total energy consumption has declined from about 86% to 84% over two decades.  

This suggests that the shift has just about stopped, especially as some countries are getting back into coal (Germany) and many are accelerating their consumption (China, India and the rest of the developing world.)

In Australia the retreat from coal has hardly progressed since the closure of Hazelwood in 2017. See here for a shot of the Hazelwood towers coming to earth.

When Hazelwood closed, AEMO warned that we were travelling with dangerously diminished spare capacity. This meant that further reduction in coal capacity could be catastrophic and we have survived so far by heroic load shedding during critical periods (Jan 2019, June 2022) and (largely invisible) deindustrialization.

In the same year that Hazelwood closed, Audrey Zibelman arrived from the United States to head up AEMO and set the course for energy policy going forward. She was greeted as a breath of fresh air by  RenewEconomy.


Audrey Zibelman has only been in Australia and in her role as chief executive of the Australian Energy Market Operator for six weeks, but already her views on the changes needed to adapt rapidly to a modern grid and new technologies are being described – both within her organisation, and in the broader energy industry – as a breath of fresh air.

Never before has Australia had a senior executive in the energy industry being so up-front about the possibilities of new technologies, and so enthusiastic about the changes that lie ahead. She is convinced the gird will change dramatically, and will be cheaper, cleaner, smarter and more reliable. And focused around the consumer.


When she left in 2020 the Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, thanked her for her service, especially for her influence in developing the Integrated System Plan “to ensure that we will have affordable, reliable, clean and secure energy with record investment in renewables.”

Zibelman was a strange choice for the role, a failed software vendor with political connections, she was a potential Energy Secretary if Hilary Clinton had won the US Presidency. Her most visible contribution was to stump the country promising the trifecta of clean, cheap and reliable power and her most potent influence was to stack the AEMO with green zealots. That ambition was recorded in another interview with RenewEconomy shortly before she departed to conquer fresh fields of endeavour with Google X.  

She should probably be extradited and brought back to face a charge of leaving the scene of an accident. Her legacy project, the Integrated System Plan for the future of the national grid (the NEM) has been subjected to a forensic review by serious professionals and condemned as simply unworkable – certain to lead to energy shortages, high prices and perpetual subsidies. They say the plan fails to provide analysis of whole-of-system, whole-of-life costs and emissions, nor a proper comparison of alternatives. Attempting to reach Net-Zero with renewable wind and solar means much higher costs and impoverishment, especially for those on lower incomes. The renewables transformation of our electricity sector, driven by a doubtful need for Net Zero carbon emissions, is a monumental mistake.  Here are a dozen reasons.

Of course penetration of wind and solar has increased, in line with installed capacity, as AEMO likes to record with a new tab on the Data Dashboard.

However there is a world of difference between DISPLACING coal and REPLACING it.

Everyone needs to understand that the exit of coal is limited by the lowest level of wind and solar output on nights with little or no wind, as a convoy travels at the speed of the slowest vessel, the water penetrates the levee at the lowest point, a chain is only as strong as the weakest link and stock get out of the yard through gaps even if the rest of the fence is built to the sky.

As long as periods with effectively zero solar and wind power persist, 100% backup from conventional power will still be required, assuming that we want security of supply. This means that we will have to keep burning coal until nuclear power is on deck.

If the Zibelman appointment was strange, replacing her with Daniel Westerman was bizarre. He was one of the planners who guided the implementation of net zero policies in the British electricity system. Have a look at the cost and reliability of the British power supply at present with the eye of a car-buyer and ask yourself if you would want a second-hand energy policy from that yard!

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February 6, 2023 9:38 pm

If the Zibelman appointment was strange, replacing her with Daniel Westerman was bizarre.

One man’s bug is another man’s feature.

February 6, 2023 10:07 pm

One man’s bug is another man’s feature.

Where are the pest exterminators when you need one…or three?
Most of our pollies are weak as p… when it comes to the unreliables scam.

February 6, 2023 10:17 pm

Taylor- another useless squish.

February 7, 2023 10:17 am

Zibelman reminds me of that other American executive that came over and fucked over Telstra.

February 7, 2023 11:08 am

One man’s bug is another man’s feature.

exactly. – look at Westerman’s background.
– organisational change
– renewball pushing.

For some, he’s the perfect fit.

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
February 7, 2023 12:49 pm

See here for a shot of the Hazelwood towers coming to earth.

That’s one difference between we here in Australia and even the greenest countries elsewhere: we fall over ourselves to destroy the closed coal plant as fast as possible.


UK Once Again Brings Coal Power Plants Online as, Foreseeably, It Gets Cold in Winter (6 Feb)

Germany has restarted two coal-fired power plants within a month in response to a gas crisis caused by a shortage of Gazprom (7 Feb)

The Poms and the Germans are as green as grass yet they had the sense to mothball the plants in case of need. Which is now happening.

That’s how dumb our pollies are.

February 7, 2023 2:03 pm

Superb stuff Rafe. Cuts right to the heart of the lunatic policies.

February 7, 2023 2:36 pm

A well written essay on Germanys energy policy.

February 7, 2023 4:53 pm

Sadly we are dealing with the “Socialism has never really been done properly”” crowd.
Shut all your fossil fuel generators and install a 1,000 windmills and suffer blackouts on still days. Then clearly where you went wrong is you should have installed 2,000 windmills!!!
Similarly they substitute “science” for magic. If you argue with the above they say batteries will solve the problem. You then point out batteries hopelessly inadequate, they will say “science” will improve them exponentially if only we spend enough taxpayer dollars on it. You simply have to say magic words like “research and development” and voila your problems disappear.
The zealots will never change but how do we get across to Joe Average and his missus that they are mindless zealots? Sadly I think we are going to have live this stupidity even though we can see it coming and are screaming at anyone who will listen. The masses won’t understand or give it attention until then.

February 7, 2023 7:08 pm

A simple graph on the stunning success of the “transition to renewables”

February 7, 2023 7:10 pm

try again

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
February 7, 2023 7:49 pm

I suspect you mean this one Yarpos!

The Daily Chart: Green Energy Realism | Power Line (6 Feb)

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