In my letter published November 7, I suggested the senator provide a meaningful comparison. The reply is quite unsatisfactory as it presents no real comparison, and instead more inflated figures that appear to be designed to mislead and scare the general population about the future of energy production.
The senator notes that in saying the fuel cost is zero, I’ve neglected any maintenance costs. This may be true, but the senator has also neglected to include any maintenance costs of the coal plant in his letter.
He has also only provided a capital/construction cost for the solar plant, and nothing similar for the coal plant as a basis for comparison. Incidentally the maintenance costs for solar photo-voltaic plant tends to be low, as much of the equipment is solid-state, whereas a coal plant involves high temperatures and pressures along with many high-mass moving parts in operation causing greater wear and tear. Solar thermal sits somewhere in between the two.
The senator’s figure of $2962 for CO2 saved by the solar plant is a ridiculously cartoonish (if not outright incorrect) simplification of the matter. This figure assumes the solar plant only operates for one year but in fact it will provide the same average CO2 abatement for much more than one year.
Secondly the solar plant isn’t just reducing CO2 emissions, it is generating electricity too, so part of the cost is going into electricity production (and green power attracts a premium price), it is also producing the reduced fuel costs he noted.
The solar plant has other non- financial advantages like zero particulate emissions (which affect the health of the whole population, especially asthma sufferers and those near the plant), no need to mine coal (potentially on good farming land) and zero radioactive emissions (burning coal releases radioactive particles trapped in the rock).
Some of these “externalities” are paid by society as a whole (eg: in increased medical costs), not just electricity generators and consumers.
You might also want to read the Australian Energy Technology Assessment which predicts onshore wind and solar will be the cheapest forms of electricity by 2030. There is no point being behind the curve on this.
In summary, I’m still looking for a valid comparison between the solar and coal plant, my $100 roast, and The Nationals’ vehement record of opposition to the network gold-plating that has increased our power costs.