Scott Hargreaves Discussing IPA Research On System Cost Energy Research Breakfast ABC Hobart – 2 July 2024

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2 July 2024
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The Institute of Public Affairs’ Scott Hargreaves appeared on Breakfast ABC Hobart to discuss the IPA’s research on Nuclear Energy.

All media appearances posted onto the IPA website are directly related to the promotion and dissemination of IPA research.

Below is a transcript of the interview.


Ryk Goddard:

Tasmania for some time. You’ve heard a lot of debate about nuclear power versus renewables in the Australian grid, and a lot of the information can be confusing. CSIRO put out figures, and they have done this year, after year, after year for about 13 years, looking at the economics of nuclear power and suggesting it’s extremely unaffordable for Australia. Scott Hargraves is Executive Director of the Institute of Public Affairs in Australia. Morning, Scott.

Scott Hargreaves:

Good morning, Ryk.

Ryk Goddard:

You on speakerphone?

Scott Hargreaves:

Sorry. I’ll get the AirPods out and I’ll do it the other way.

Ryk Goddard:

There we go. Yeah, we’ll hear you much better if you’re up nice and close with us. Who is the scientist that you’ve worked with for the report you’ve put out, that suggests renewables are four times as expensive as nuclear?

Scott Hargreaves:

Well, it’s interesting that we are quoting the CSIRO, and there are some wonderful scientists at the CSIRO. But their gen cost report is actually put together by an economist, a chemist and a mathematician. So it depends on your definition of scientists. So the one we reached out to is actually an engineer, who’s worked advising governments all over the world on energy systems. He’s an adjunct professor at the University of Queensland. His name is Stephen Wilson. And so we actually thought we’d get someone who is technically qualified in how to operate an energy system. And what the emphasis in our report is on base load energy. And remember we’re talking about the mainland. In Tasmania, you’re blessed with this wonderful hydroelectric scheme. If we had one of those in every state of Australia, this would be a much easier conversation, but we are not. And what we need is base load energy that can operate 24/7, reliably, afforadbly. But with the advice to the CSIRO, what we’re driving towards is a renewables system, a system that allegedly can have 82% of the energy coming from renewables. And that’s just driving up costs, reducing reliability, and it’s just not viable.

Ryk Goddard:

For what reason, Scott? Because presumably if you back those renewables up with a battery, you can base load out of the battery whenever you like.

Scott Hargreaves:

Oh, thank you. Yeah, no, exactly. So they do have to be backed up. So what typically happens, is you would need to back up, first of all with batteries, but then what do you do when the batteries run out? Well then we better have some gas in the system, so we’re going to need gas-fired generators. And so what we’re getting is an intermittent system, where prices are fluctuating all over the place and that drives more expense. And it’s an excellent question because that’s the total system cost, not just the cost of adding an extra unit of wind power, which is what the CSIRO’s model does or solar power. But the total system cost, with all the backups, all the interrelationships of calling on Tasmania’s power through Basslink, sending it north. These are all the things that actually should be modelled by CSIRO, and I’d be happy if they did start doing that.

Ryk Goddard:

Scott, with the modelling that your guy did, which in a way is an accounting issue. How does he find the renewables four times more expensive than nuclear power?

Scott Hargreaves:

Well, this is modelling that he’s supervised at UQ. But it’s also, it’s done by other organisations around the world like EPRI in the US. And it’s essentially saying if you’ve got generators all across the wholesale energy market, how do they interact? And systems based on base load, which is either the coal-fired power that we had, or new coal or possibly nuclear. When these things are just running away 24/7, well then you can have some renewables, and you can have some gas playing a role, and you always get cheaper outcomes. We’ve already doubled the cost as we’ve driven towards renewables. We’ve gone from a system which was delivering at about $50 a megawatt hour, to one based around $100 a megawatt hours, and we’re on our way to $200. That’s the concern.

Ryk Goddard:

Scott, some people would argue though that things not cost into that system, I.E. the cost of the impact of carbon into the environment. Also, the cost of dealing with the waste.

Scott Hargreaves:

Again, a very good, perfectly respectable argument. So if we’re going to start costing in carbon, which is not what the CSIRO is purporting to do, then you could do a comparison between coal and nuclear. I do wonder, why is there this visceral reaction against a low emissions, zero emissions source like nuclear? It makes me think that maybe what it is, is that there’s a cheer squad for wind and solar out there. A lot of companies making a lot of money on the mainland, building wind farms all up and down the Great Dividing range, solar panels in inland Australia. This is not only a very expensive way to do it requiring more transmission lines, but it delivers a wholesale market, which will be four times the cost of what we had. That’s really the focus of our report.

Ryk Goddard:

21 past seven. Scott Hargraves, executive director of the IPA. The farmers love the solar panels because it prevents drought, and provides shade for livestock. They’ve told us that themselves, Scott, they’re very enthusiastic about what that’s doing to improve Inland Australia. Why is that message not being put out?

Scott Hargreaves:

I’ve seen that message. It’s been put out by public relations consultants on behalf of the companies that are installing those solar panels, and they’ve batted up farmers to be interviewed by people like your good self. But I could put you onto the farmers who are next door, who are extremely concerned about the weeds and the vermin that come from solar factories in what was prime agricultural land.

Ryk Goddard:

Where is that happening, Scott?

Scott Hargreaves:

Oh, that’s in Inland New South Wales.

Ryk Goddard:

The vermin?

Scott Hargreaves:

Yeah. Yeah, because what a farmer does is he keeps down the vermin on his property, and this is a responsibility. Whereas under the solar panels of an industrial scale solar factory, it’s obviously what’s the incentive of that operation to keep things under control? What’s the weed control? But we’re talking about costs here. So there are environmental costs, and we should talk about all environmental costs. So there are some farmers who are receiving royalties from solar factories or wind farms, and they may well be happy, but it’s the neighbours who are not happy. We’ve seen objections to wind farms in Tasmania, from people who are concerned about the environmental impact, and that’s also happening in North Queensland.

Ryk Goddard:

Scott Hargraves, Executive Director of the IPA. Just finally, Scott, and briefly, because I’ve got to jump to another story now. Is the cost of dealing with nuclear waste built into the cost of generating nuclear power in your report?

Scott Hargreaves:

Well, all the costs of nuclear energy, which are built in, because this is done all over the world. A country like France has 70% of its energy come from nuclear energy. Australia is really the exception that we won’t even consider it, not necessarily for Tasmania because of this wonderful hydro system that you have. The risk in Tasmania is that the mainland is going to stuff this up so badly, that all that energy is going to be sucked north via new and expensive transmission cables.

Ryk Goddard:

Hopefully Scott.

Scott Hargreaves:

Times four.

Ryk Goddard:

Hopefully profitably enough to pay for those cables. Great to talk to you this morning.

Scott Hargreaves:

Thanks Ryk.

Ryk Goddard:

Scott Hargraves, Executive Director of the IPA.

This transcript with Scott Hargreaves talking on ABC Hobart from 2 July 2024 has been edited for clarity.

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