Dear Minister – We Need Real Emissions Reductions in NSW

Dear Minister – We Need Real Emissions Reductions in NSW

Nuclear for Climate

The $32 billion renewables plan for NSW announced by Energy Minister Matt Kean would, if implemented, consign our state to high power prices with only a modest reduction in carbon emissions. If directed to nuclear energy it would fully decarbonise the NSW grid and provide low cost, reliable energy 24/7.

The NSW Energy and Environment Minister is proposing to:

  • Assist the private sector in developing 12 gigawatts (GW) of VRE (variable renewable energy) and 2 GW of pumped storage.
  • Provide out of market assistance to VRE in the form of floor prices on energy, land leasing assistance, power purchase guarantees and subsidies to pumped storage projects.
  • Facilitate the delivery of 12 Gigawatts of VRE and 2 GW of pumped storage.

Figure 1 - Comparison of Residual Load at different levels of VRE

Figure 1 – Comparison of residual load at different levels of VRE

In the last 12 months NSW generated 63.62 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electrical energy (not including roof top solar). Of this 55TWh came for fossil fuels – mainly coal.

On a yearly basis the 12GW of VRE will generate about 30.8TWh or 56% of the energy currently generated by fossil fuels. Problem is that at high levels of VRE as shown in Figure 1 the coal must try to ramp down or “steam off” – keep burning some coal but dump the energy if VRE is to have priority access. The gas turbines take an opportunistic approach. They supply to match the huge ramp rates caused by wind and solar fluctuations and make a financial killing. VRE is an invitation to Gas.

Coal plants can’t leave the system – they must supply energy throughout the evening periods because the pumped hydro at 2GW is not sufficient to meet instantaneous after-hours demand. As we have seen in Western Australia with increasing solar PV, they have been forced to keep the existing state-owned Synergy going with payments of $656 million in 2019 and a further $700 million in 2020. Works out at $700 per family per year or about $19/MWh.

This is where NSW is headed. A system reliant upon VRE is like a juggler keeping many balls in play. The system needs to balance:

  1. Gas turbines and fast start diesel engines to match huge ramp rates caused by VRE.
  2. Gas and coal to keep the lights on at night and during wind droughts shown in the following image.
Wind Drought

Wind Drought

  1. Ancillary services such as spinning capacitors and batteries to provide voltage and frequency control.
  2. Pumped storage to the degree this is possible in a drought prone land.
  3. Very large grid expansion to allow all these varying generators to meet the demand
  4. And if all else fails then we “put up the white flag” on our economy and revert to demand response from industry.

Carbon Emissions reductions.

Advocates of VRE forget that the reason for our energy transition is to reduce carbon emissions. Figure 2 shows that in South Australia where fugitive methane emissions are likely to be in the 1.4% to 2% range the actual emissions intensity is above 400 gr CO2/kWh while be should be aiming for less than 50 gr CO2/kWh.

Since the Rio conference, our governments have been well informed about the extremely low emissions intensity of nuclear energy. The evidence is clear. We see it daily in the emissions profile of France which generates electricity with an emissions intensity of only 35 gr CO2e/kWh in 2019 from a grid supplied with 75% nuclear energy. Refer to Figure 3

Despite this stark example, within Australia the ongoing sway of the Variable Renewable Energy message is very strong. No nation has achieved emissions reductions of the level required to address climate change using predominantly wind and solar. Studies carried out by MIT and the OECD consistently find that for deep carbon reductions systems that exclude nuclear produce electricity at twice the cost of those that include it.

The ultimate expression of this failure can be seen in policies such as the German Energiewende where despite spending some €150 billion up to 2015, the actual emissions reductions have remained stubbornly high. By 2025 it’s been estimated by the Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE) that over €520 billion will be spent in the electricity sector alone.

Figure 2 – South Australian emissions

To meet the goals of ecologically sustainable development and protect our natural environment we cannot afford to go down the exclusively renewables route.

Figure 3 – French electricity emissions intensity vs German

The Nuclear Solution

For Matt Kean’s $32 billion we could build 25 small 300MW nuclear power plants in NSW located on the existing grid with NO major grid upgrades.

They could fully decarbonise the NSW electricity system and generate all the 55TWh currently generated by gas and coal.

BWRX 300 – 300MWe Small Nuclear Power  Plant

These plants would have world class safety:

  • Designed to mitigate loss-of-coolant accidents (LOCA) enabling simpler passive safety – Emergency Planning Zone EPZ limited to site boundary
  • They will be competitive with the levelized cost of electricity of natural gas and renewables
  • Passive cooling: designed to allow steam condensation and gravity to cool the reactor for a minimum of seven days without power or operator action – No Fukushima effect
  • Quick Deployment: Deployable as early as 2027, thanks to proven know-how, supply chain, components, certified fuel and simpler construction techniques.

Where? In the upper Hunter to replace Bayswater and Liddell, in the mid North Coast at Eraring, Munmorah and Vales Point, in the west at Mt Piper and Wallerawang and a couple in the Illawarra

Please download this article hereNSW Nuclear Alternative

Robert Parker

Founder of Nuclear For Climate Australia

https://nuclearforclimate.com.au/

email: Rob.Parker@nuclearforclimate.com.au

 

8 Comments
  • Ann Parker
    Posted at 19:10h, 10 November Reply

    Great summary; exciting and very timely

  • George
    Posted at 08:47h, 11 November Reply

    Would a petition help this message to the Minister?

    • Rob Parker
      Posted at 11:03h, 11 November Reply

      Yes it would and in fact any direct communications to the office of the minister would help. Even small groups of 3 or 4 like minded people help.

  • Greg Dean
    Posted at 10:33h, 11 November Reply

    I support Nuclear power generation in NSW & all of Australia.

  • Peter Kemp
    Posted at 19:08h, 11 November Reply

    We should be asking: “Why isn’t the Institution or the Chief Engineer advocating for this?”

    • Rob Parker
      Posted at 15:40h, 12 November Reply

      Peter
      Regarding our chief scientist. He is in fact a supporter of nuclear energy but his role is compromised by his political masters
      The Institution of Engineers has a nuclear group but it comes into conflict with the sustainability group which is ideological. Unfortunately the Institution of Engineers has a poor track record on leadership which is why I left them as a member.

  • Colin Megson
    Posted at 11:00h, 12 November Reply

    Please do not miss out on promoting the BWRX-300 to commercial investors. Before the end of the decade, good old-fashioned capitalism, the profit motive and laws of supply and demand, will have all of those pseudo-green fund managers and banks clawing at one another’s throats to get their pots out of wind and solar plants (WASPs) and into advanced nuclear power plants (NPPs).

    The build of the BWRX-300, most cost-effective NPP that has ever been designed, will commence in 2024, for first operation in the USA in 2027. At least another 3 will be operational in Canada and Europe before the end of the decade.

    By 2030, it will be available for manufacture under licence in many nations, at an overnight capital cost (OCC) of US$675 million for a 300 MW NPP that will operate at up to 95% capacity factor, with a lifespan of 60/80 years. But most importantly, its build programme is down to 2 years.

    That unique 2 years build programme levels the playing field with WASPs, so the cost-of-capital that has drained investment in low-carbon electricity generation out of NPPs and into WASPs is utterly negated.

    Considering all of the other significant costs, fund managers should be aware that the time for investment is now. Every $1.00 invested in these NPPs will ‘earn’ multiple times more than $1.00 invested in any form of WASP. This NPP will undoubtedly turn the green energy investment market on its head.

    $1.00 invested in a BWRX-300 now, will earn 17X more than those $1.00 already in the pipeline for Robertstown Solar Project. So that commercial pressure needs to come down on the heads of politicians and get that nuclear power ban repealed within the next couple of years:

    https://bwrx-300-nuclear-uk.blogspot.com/2020/05/fund-managers-with-a173-billion-to.html

    • Rob Parker
      Posted at 15:41h, 12 November Reply

      Great contribution from Colin Megson. Yes I agree that the BWRX 300 looks to provide an incredible opportunity.

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