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  • Writer's pictureGregory Andrews

Why go Nuclear? For Australia, renewables are cheaper and faster!

When my nephew recently asked rhetorically "why wouldn't nuclear be cheaper?", I realised that political smoke-screening on nuclear energy is having its desired effect. So what was my response? The first thing I said was I'm technology neutral. I'm open to all sources of energy as long as they're zero-emissions, reliable, safe and low-cost. My second point was, on that basis, Australia doesn't need nuclear because it's too expensive and slow in comparison to renewables. My third point was that the LNP's spruiking of nuclear isn't about climate action or decarbonisation. It's a hand grenade thrown for distraction and delay.


Exploring the case of Spain illuminates why renewables are the clear choice for Australia's energy future. Read on to understand more.


In Spain, high renewable energy investment has led to significantly lower electricity prices. Solar and wind generation now account for over 50 per cent of electricity production and have driven electricity prices down to near €2 per megawatt-hour. That compares to €67 in France which is heavily reliant on nuclear power. This stark difference highlights the economic, commercial and social benefits of investing in renewables over nuclear. Especially for Australia, which like Spain, has abundant solar and wind resources.


Australia's renewable energy resources are immense. Our solar and wind resources are capable of generating much more electricity than we consume. This potential is not just theoretical; we've already been making strides in the roll out of renewables. South Australia, for example, often runs at 100% renewables and the ACT is already at 100%.


Investing in renewables offers several advantages for Australia, especially in the context of the cost of living. Firstly, the cost of generating electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar has plummeted globally, making it the cheapest form of new electricity generation. Solar and wind power can provide low-cost electricity to consumers, contributing to lower energy bills and alleviating cost of living pressures. According to CSIRO, nuclear options in Australia would cost between five and ten times more.


Secondly, renewable energy projects can be deployed much faster than nuclear, meaning they can start delivering benefits to the grid and to consumers much sooner. Given that the world has already hit the Paris Agreement 1.5C threshold, rapid deployment capability is crucial. Small Modular Reactors that Peter Dutton talks about have never been built anywhere in the world. They're still only ideas.


Moreover, the decentralisation potential of renewables, particularly solar, can empower Australian households and businesses to generate their own electricity, further driving down costs and enhancing energy security. This contrasts with the centralised nature of nuclear power, which requires significant infrastructure, security, and upfront investment, translating into higher costs for consumers. The solar panels on the roof of my house mean we don't pay power companies anything for our electricity. Indeed, they pay us for the surplus electricity we generate and share to the grid.


Environmental and safety considerations also favor renewables over nuclear. Renewable energy projects have much smaller environmental footprints and do not produce hazardous waste, unlike nuclear power, which requires radioactive waste management and brings with it the risk of accidents like those in Chernobyl and Fukushima.


Spain's experience underscores the economic and environmental viability of scaling up renewables for Australia. The lessons are clear: investing in solar and wind leads to lower electricity prices, faster decarbonisation, and greater energy independence and security.


The answer to the nuclear question is a simple one: Australia doesn't need it. Our abundant renewable energy resources provide much more cost-effective, commercially viable and safer means of meeting our energy needs and addressing the urgent challenge of climate change. Let's not fall victim to Peter Dutton and the LNP's tactics of distraction and delay.


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Perri Hobbs
Perri Hobbs
Mar 06

If either party had planned out how to get baseload supply using renewables, we would not be in the position we are now - renewables are about to fail, with either numerous blackouts, or the provision of baseload supply with large quantities of diesel generators, or the building of new coal generators.

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Gregory Andrews
Gregory Andrews
Mar 12
Replying to

Recent grid failures have been caused by climate-change induced bad weather, storms and bushfires, not renewables.

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Michael Bowles
Michael Bowles
Mar 05

Hi Greg. I agree with all you are saying here, but I wish you went into more detail on how Spain generates its solar electricity. A large proportion of Spain's electricity is generated from concentrating solar power (CSP) stations with thermal storage. A vast proportion of the Australian population is unaware of this technology. CSP with storage provides baseload and dispatchable electricity 24/7. I hope you can find the time to reply to this comment as discussion in Australia is needed to educate the population on CSP.

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eric.huttner
Mar 04

I agree with your analysis (speed of deployment , costs, benefits of decentralisation, etc.) but the comparison of prices between Spain and France is over simplistic and misleading. Electricity can cost anything at various times. Cost of wind and solar power (including their environmental costs, space needed, etc.) has to include storage.

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Perri Hobbs
Perri Hobbs
Mar 04

I believe that 2 Euro/MWhr is a spot price. What's the price when renewables can't supply? What is Spain's average power price?

Our power prices here can be very low as well - solar and wind can be very cheap when they are on. The problem is that they aren't on all the time, and the legacy generators need to be on constantly, as they can't spin up to full power in under a couple of hours. This leads to them charging massive amounts when they are relied upon for power.


Like it or not, Australia will move to nuclear or build new coal fired power plants. There is only so much renewable power that we can have before we…

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Ian Millner
Ian Millner
Mar 04

Clearly Dutton and the LNP are as you say simply using the so called Small Nuclear Reactors (SNR) as a diversion to slow down the uptake of renewables. If they were in fact serious (which we know they are not) then they would need to be promoting the electrification of all our machines and transport. If you drive a ICE vehicle you cannot take advantage of Nuclear electricity, because the vehicle only works with fossil fuel. If you have a gas hot water system and a gas cook top, again, you cannot take advantage of Nuclear, as these devices cannot use the electricity produced by Nuclear. If Dutton and the LNP were in fact serious they would have a detailed…

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