Saturday, 7 September 2013

IPA concedes wind farms successful in displacing coal
9 Jul 2013

The anti-wind campaigners sometimes have difficulty getting their facts in the right order. One of their most common complaints is that wind power does nothing to reduce emissions as it doesn't actually result in any fossil fuel generation being switched off, because fossil fuel needs to keep running as "back-up" in case the wind stops blowing.

Of course, this is not true. As the Australian Energy Market Operator notes in South Australia, where wind power accounts for around 25% of both capacity and demand, coal fired generation-both local and imported from Victoria-has fallen dramatically. There hasn't even been any need for new peaking power stations and the use of gas has not increased since the state started building the first of its 1,200MW of wind power.

The IPA, one of the most powerful and influential anti-wind groups, whose former head is now the WA state energy minister, is a strong proponent of the "continuous" back-up claim. But at the recent, lightly attended anti-wind rally in Canberra, its director of deregulation, Alan Moran made a crucial admission: wind power is forcing conventional coal generation out of the market, because it is making it uneconomic.

"(Renewables) are in fact squeezing out conventional energy, conventional, predictable and reliable energy, because they are "must run", and conventional energy is automatically backed off", Moran said, according to a transcript published on the anti-wind website Stop These Things. "This is leading to the retirement of coal fired stations, as subsidised wind makes them not profitable".

Well, quite so. And good. That is actually what these schemes-carbon price, renewable energy targets, emissions limits etc-are designed to do, to hasten the retirement of highly polluting power plants, or at least force them to invest in technology that reduces their emissions and pollution.

But Moran's admission goes to the heart of the campaign against wind and other renewables. It's not really a technological issue-as the Queensland network operator and the AEMO both make clear-it is an economic one for the incumbent generators. And the growing penetration of renewables is indeed forcing dirty, inflexible generation such as old coal plants out of the market-as it is in Europe and elsewhere.

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