Energy price rises stunt business growth

Electricity prices remain a hot topic across Australia and business is feeling the pinch.

Victoria’s wholesale power prices were the cheapest in Australia prior to the closure of Hazelwood brown coal power station in March 2017.

Wholesale prices have tripled since 2015.

The results?

The below article ($) by Karen Collier in the Herald-Sun, which quotes a recent survey of businesses that employ 90,000 people in Melbournes South East, sums it up well:

The crippling impact of soaring energy prices is revealed in research carried out on behalf of councils in Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs.

Massive cost increases have forced some Victorian manufacturers to delay hiring workers and shelve expansion plans and equipment investment.

It’ll come as no surprise to those that have been following the energy policy issue that higher electricity prices are rippling through the economy as suppliers pass on their increased power costs.

What is the solution?

Strangely, South Australia, with the highest electricity prices in Australia (and arguably the highest prices in the world), has decided to ‘double down’, increasing their renewable target from 50% to 75%.

Victoria seems to be following suit, hoping that increased rooftop solar systems and Wind capacity will bring prices down.

Long-term, coal-based solutions seem to be off the table. Especially brown coal.

It’s a shame, because coal provides reliable, affordable electricity when we need it. Unlike Wind, which is unpredictable, like earlier today when it fell to 5% capacity in SA, providing just 46MW.

SA even turned on their ‘worlds largest battery’ to deliver about 13 MW. It can store 129 MWh of electricity, so 13MW would run it down in less than 10 hours while providing an anaemic 1% of the state power needs. Meanwhile, the gap is really being filled with power from brown and black coal from Victoria and NSW.

So, if Victoria is planning on heading down the path of more renewables, without a suitable backup, prices will continue to remain high and likely increase.

And the backup can’t be more gas-fired power. Not without placing increasing pressure on already skyrocketing gas prices.

An alternative is to take a stepwise, incremental, transitional approach. Brown coal can play a part in CO2 mitigation strategies, but only if it’s dried first.

The reason brown coal is so CO2 intensive is its high moisture content. It means brown coal power stations like the ones in Victoria emit around 30% more CO2 than equivalent black coal power stations like the ones found in NSW and Qld.

So, why don’t we simply dry the coal first? Great question! This has been the ‘holy grail’ of brown coal research for decades.

Without getting too technical, drying is actually easy… but drying efficiently and cost-effectively isn’t.

It takes energy to evaporate the moisture in wet brown coal before you get to the ‘usable’ heat to generate steam to spin those turbines to create those electrons.

Most coal drying methods have used variations of ‘heat and squeeze’ to remove the moisture. High pressure and high temperature take energy. That energy costs money in the form of electricity or gas or coal. You can burn coal to dry coal, but you also create a CO2 footprint. In some applications, this may be acceptable, but when the goal is CO2 mitigation, it defeats the purpose.

Coldry is different.

Coldry is a low pressure, low-temperature process that achieves these key features through the clever combination of ‘brown coal densification’ and waste heat utilisation.

Brown coal densification is a natural phenomenon initiated through very specific levels of shear and attrition. Essentially, it liberates most of the physically trapped moisture and results in the shrinking and hardening of the extruded coal paste. There are many other factors such as pH levels and shear stress over time but suffice to say, we’ve developed a counterintuitive coal drying process that results in the lowest cost solution we’re aware of.

And what is that source of waste heat? In the case of brown coal power stations, approximately one-third of the energy going in as coal is lost via the cooling system and flue gas streams.

This waste heat resource is ideal for Coldry. It provides the evaporative energy needed to remove the moisture from the pellets as they densify over a 24-48 hour period.

As a bonus, the Coldry process also reduces the need for cooling in the power station, reducing its requirement to take water from local river systems.

The Coldry product is around 30% less CO2 intensive compared to wet brown coal.

There is one catch; you can’t use 100% Coldry in a brown coal power station. It’s just not designed to take the heat. It would need to be modified first.

However, an existing brown coal power station can take a blend of Coldry and wet brown coal, bring down emissions intensity.

Taken to the next level, Coldry can be used in a new high efficiency, low-emission (HELE) power station, delivering between 43% and 62% less CO2 than an equivalent brown coal power station.

We suspect the price pain of current energy policy will get worse before such pragmatic CO2 mitigation strategies are seriously considered.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to focus our local efforts on industrial energy consumers, providing Coldry solid fuel to run boilers that generate process heat… something wind and solar can’t do, and something gas can no longer do competitively.

Read more about the price pain experienced by businesses below…

Surging power costs are hurting Victorian manufacturers

Herald Sun ($) | 24 February 2018 | Karen Collier

BUSINESSES are being stung with power price rises of up to 200 per cent in a crisis that is stunting jobs growth.

Massive cost increases have forced some Victorian manufacturers to delay hiring workers and shelve expansion plans and equipment investment.

The crippling impact of soaring energy prices is revealed in research carried out on behalf of councils in Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs.

Source: Energy price rises stunt business growth