Barnaby Joyce is at it again: Making outrageous claims about wind energy and getting his numbers atrociously wrong at the same time. We’re often told that we should ignore such nonsense, but this is, after all, a man with extraordinary influence over the conservative side of politics and who still wants to be deputy prime minister and a senior minister again.
And he has some support.
Joyce, the member for New England and one time leader of the National Party, and deputy PM, made his latest claims on Sky News (where else), and in an interview with Peta Credlin, the former chief of staff to Tony Abbott who drove the hard right political chariot – pulled by the faithful Abbott and Joyce and others – from late 2013 to 2015. And in their world, nothing much has changed.
The new target of Joyce and Credlin’s ire is the Nundle wind farm, a 400MW project proposed by Wind Energy Partners in Joyce’s electorate and which is being fought by a local group who say it will destroy local views and chase 100,000 tourists away from the town. WEP says the wind farm will be visible, but not from the town itself.
But for Joyce and Credlin it’s all part of a plot. Wind is a scam, all the benefits are going to Chinese wind makers, and payments from wind projects to local community amount to hush money.
Joyce even mentioned a fire at the Ravenswood wind farm in Queensland in 2018. It seems that “big plumes of black smoke going across the landscape,” as he described it, bother him greatly. But not the emissions and particulate from coal fired generators. Let’s build more of those, he and his former chief of staff Senator Matt Canavan chorus.
On the Credlin show, Joyce compared the push for wind farms to the use of “Steiger Vortex guns” – a hair -brained scheme to use big cannons to bring rain out of clouds – that were unsuccessfully trialled in Charleville during a drought in 1902.
Apparently it was proposed by the Austrian-born Queensland government meteorologist, Clement Wragge. Joyce suggested there was a clear link between this and the Bureau of Meteorology and its warnings about climate change. Plot, scam, bloody experts.
Joyce also repeated the false claim – made in a endless circle of deceit between the Murdoch Media and the Coalition – that each and every wind turbine in Australia costs tax-payers $660,000 a year. This is based on the false – and repeatedly debunked claim – that taxpayers foot the bill (they don’t), and that each wind turbine gets around $66 for each megawatt hour produced.
This is total bunkum. The market price of large scale generation certificates (LGCs) did once reach those levels, when investment stopped as the Coalition tried to kill the renewable energy target, but the price has since fallen to half that amount.
What’s more, the market price only applies to a small amount of the target, principally the money paid by retailers who couldn’t be bothered to generate or invest in their own renewables.
The vast majority of LGCs are delivered by wind and solar farms in bundled contracts to retailers – and those contracts have a value of next to nothing for the LGCs. And, as various energy regulators and numerous analysts have confirmed, wind power (and solar power) is bringing down wholesale prices for all.
Joyce’s appearance on Credlin’s TV show appeared deliberately timed to coincide with her own tirade against wind and solar, joining on the bandwagon of Murdoch commentators praising the pro-nuclear apostle Michael Schellenberger, who usefully lifted the curtains on the fundamental precept of the pro-nuclear lobby – they don’t actually accept the climate science, or the urgency to act.
The argument, also echoed by Michael Moore in his atrocious new film, is that renewables are doing more harm than good.
Ergo, we should stop deploying wind and solar until another miracle technology comes along – next generation nuclear. And because the scientists are wrong about the urgency of dealing with climate change, it doesn’t really matter if this doesn’t come any time soon. So let’s burn more coal and gas in the meantime.
“Avid Greenies now agree that renewable energy degrades the landscape, delivers unreliable power, costs billions in subsidies and rips ordinary people off,” the Credlin piece claimed.
Not sure “avid greenie” is the best description of a man who helped design the “eco-modernist manifesto” that supports high levels of industrialisation of agriculture, herding the entire population into “mega-cities”, rejects renewables, and who now rejects mainstream climate science.
But anyway, Credlin – like most Sky commentators – is also pushing the nuclear bandwagon, despite its horrendous costs, quoting Schellenberger’s claims that Germany’s power prices have increased 50 per cent over 10 years because of its focus on renewables and consumers pay nearly double the price of nuclear-powered France.
Let’s have a look at those claims. Germany’s retail electricity prices have jumped over last 10 years and are the highest in Europe, along with wind-focused Denmark. But if you go back to 1990, before renewables entered the equation, Germany already had the highest prices in Europe.
This graph explains why. It’s largely due to the heavy amount of taxes, and these are not just renewable taxes, but general taxation, which account for half the energy taxes in Germany, and its high value of VAT.
As Craig Morris wrote in 2018, there is a big difference between the cost of electricity and average bills. And German households are efficient, and their monthly bills among the lowest in Europe. The level of energy poverty in Germany is the lowest in Europe, even though their bills are the highest.
Retail prices are just one part of the puzzle. Big industry in Germany dodges taxes and network costs and pays its bills largely based on the energy price. And, praise be, it turns out that Germany does pretty well on the count.
This graph shows the cost of energy in 2019.
Oops. Based on the actual cost of energy, Germany had the cheapest prices in Europe in 2019, not the highest.
And there was this observation from the quarterly report on electricity markets from the European Commission, explaining why French prices jumped in the last three months of the year.
“The first cold snap of the winter pushed the total French demand to 77GW while only 40 GW of nuclear capacity was available and 17 reactors were off-line” (due to “maintenance over-runs and unexpected outages”), it said. “As a result, the French coal plants returned to the market after a long period of inaction and inflows were registered from Germany, Belgium, Spain and even the UK.”
What’s that then? One quarter of France’s nuclear fleet not available due to unexpected outages at time of peak demand? Having to turn on coal generators as back up? Import from renewable-dominated Germany? Oh dear, that’s not what they said on Sky.