Recently NSW announced that a gas power plant would be classed as critical infrastructure to speed up the planning process. This follows the Morrison government’s policy that gas power is needed to transition away from coal to renewables, but that policy has met with criticism from those advocating a steady reduction in CO2 emissions.
What has been mostly lacking though is a thorough rebuttal of Morrison’s claim. Renewables are being adopted rapidly in Australia but the main problem with them can be summarized very simply: the peak in solar generation does not coincide with the peak in electricity demand, which comes later in the day.
Obviously grid storage is needed and Australia is developing that e.g. Snowy 2 will add a massive amount of storage to the grid. But there’s a problem with that – Snowy 2 will be able to store 350GWh of electricity (Eastern Australia would need about 450GWh to go completely renewable) but can only dispatch 2000MW at a time (the grid needs about 24,000 at peak demand). Some have advocated nuclear as a solution to this. But why not Concentrated Solar Power? In South Australia a solar thermal plant will be used instead of gas power to supply evening electricity.
Solar thermal is not as cheap as photovoltaic, but the included storage is a massive benefit; and together it is a simpler option than using photovoltaic with another storage option (at least until those storage options are fully proven e.g. concrete blocks). I haven’t ignored batteries here, they’re just better for grid balancing than large scale storage.
Surely the LNP shouldn’t rush in to building gas plants when there are other options available, if you just look for them. Why not just keep building solar thermal plants until the problem is solved?
This report advocates numerous pumped hydro schemes. Solar thermal is obviously less environmentally disruptive.