CSIRO Confirms Wind & Solar Still Cheapest

Misinformation on energy costs has been rife ever since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine. Some politicians have even been claiming renewables are to blame for soaring energy costs.

Is renewable energy more expensive than coal and gas? 

Renewable energy remains the cheapest form of electricity. That’s according to a report published on Monday by the CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.

According to the agency, “The 2021-22 report confirms last years’ findings that wind and solar are the cheapest source of electricity generation and storage in Australia.” This remains true “even when considering additional integration costs arising due to the variable output of renewables, such as energy storage and transmission.”

Such infrastructure will be necessary for renewables to go beyond providing 50% of total power supply up to 90%. At that point, the agency envisions the final 10% could be generated with hydroelectricity, hydrogen or biomass.

In light of this finding, new electricity generation is currently one of the easiest ways to reduce carbon emissions. As of 2020, fossil fuels provided 77% of Australia’s electricity, while wind and solar combined for only 15%.

These numbers also make sense of the different experiences of the power crisis across Australia’s states and territories. As costs spiralled in NSW and QLD in particular, the ACT has actually seen a price reduction over the past month.

The Mugga Lane Solar Park, one of the major sources of electricity for the ACT (mlsolarpark.com.au)

The report also noted that the cost of hydrogen electrolysers continues to drop. This means a scenario in which Australia exports renewable energy in the form of hydrogen remains promising. Yet they also noted “the uncertainty in future cost outcomes” regarding hydrogen.

A final take-away from Monday’s report relates to the allegedly safer version of nuclear power based on “small modular reactors.” CSIRO reported they “did not see any prospect of domestic projects this decade” due to “commercial immaturity and high costs.”

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Feature image courtesy of @waldemarbrandt67w via Unsplash.

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