BACK TO THE DARK AGES AS BLACKOUT HITS S. AUSTRALIA: THE PRICE FOR HEAVY RELIANCE ON RENEWABLE ENERGY


By: - Climate DepotSeptember 28, 2016 9:54 AM

  • Date: 28/09/16
  • Brian Robins, The Sydney Morning Herald

The blackout will trigger renewed debate over the state’s heavy reliance on renewable energy which has put the electricity network in South Australia under stress.

Traffic in total darkness around the streets of Adelaide as residents are left without power on Wednesday night

Traffic in total darkness around the streets of Adelaide as residents are left without power on Wednesday night

Hard on the heels of a “near miss” in July when it narrowly averted widespread blackouts, South Australia was warned on Wednesday night to prepare for an extended loss of electricity in the wake of wild weather.

Described as a once in a 50-year storm, the statewide disruption prompted power companies to warn that users of medical equipment should prepare to use back-ups, and mobile phone users to conserve batteries.

“We are experiencing a state-wide outage which means we have no supply from the upstream transmission network,” electricity distributor SA Power Networks told clients late Wednesday.

In an unprecedented development, the state was cut-off from the national electricity network, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said “resulting in a state-wide power outage in South Australia”. As a result, the entire electricity market in the state had been suspended as it sought to work with electricity transmission company ElectraNet “to identify and understand the severity of the fault, as well as determine a power restoration time”.

There were no implications for other states from the extensive blackout in South Australia, the energy market operator said.

The extensive disruption follows the narrow avoidance of widespread blackouts in South Australia in July. At that time, the state government brought pressure to bear on a local power company for an idled power station to be restarted to avoid potential disruptions, following a lack of electricity generated from wind and solar sources at a time when it was unable to “import” sufficient supply from Victoria.

But Wednesday’s event will trigger renewed debate over the state’s heavy reliance on renewable energy which has forced the closure of uncompetitive power stations, putting the electricity network in South Australia under stress.

Earlier this week, the Grattan Institute warned that South Australia’s high reliance on renewable energy sources left it exposed to disruptions. It pointed to the fact that while the renewable energy target had encouraged the development of wind and solar generation, it had the potential to undermine supply security at a reasonable price, because it forced the closure of inefficient power stations without encouraging the construction of the necessary new generation supply sources.