Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The South Australian Government, the world’s green energy crash test dummy, appears to have thrown in the towel. In the wake of economically damaging outages and vigorous complaints from major employers, the South Australian government are now attempting to reassure industry and domestic users that there is sufficient fossil fuel capacity to cover their needs, and claim to have stepped up efforts to secure more gas supplies.
Don’t accept power blackouts as new norm, says Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg
Renewing attacks on SA’s world-leading renewable electricity generation — 41 per cent — Mr Frydenberg said transition must be managed without sacrificing energy security and affordability.
“When it comes to energy security, South Australia is the canary in the coal mine and the canary is looking pretty sick right now,” he told The Advertiser.
“While the (latest blackout’s) cause is under investigation, it is clear is that South Australia was again unable to keep the lights on when disconnected from the national electricity grid.
“This isn’t good enough, and South Australians should not accept this as the new norm. They deserve better.”
State Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the incident had demonstrated that SA had more than sufficient thermal (gas-powered) generation to meet the 1400 megawatt demand at the time.
“Last night proved we have enough thermal generation to manage our own system,” Mr Koutsantonis said.
“ … We (SA) are basically a very good, diversified electricity generator. The problem we have is we don’t have a cheap, available amount of gas.
“I’d reassure South Australians that, fundamentally, our system is sound.”
Mr Koutsantonis said reliable and affordable gas was critical to fuel generation in Australia for decades and highlighted national reforms, pushed by him and Mr Frydenberg, to boost supply.
“We’ve got the most efficient thermal gas-fired generator in the country here in South Australia, at Pelican Point, and the way the national electricity market is structured it’s not efficient for them to have the entire thing running all the time,” he said.
South Australian Farmers appear far from convinced by Mr. Koutsantonis’ assurances. South Australia has scorching hot, dry Summers. A few hours, let alone a few days without irrigation, can potentially destroy millions of dollars worth of farm produce. As the height of Summer approaches, South Australian farmers are not taking any chances.
SA irrigators, farmers turn to generators for electricity stability
Irrigators and farmers are buying diesel generators to secure their power supply, as price and stability issues continue to plague South Australia’s energy grid, industry experts have said.
In recent months the state has suffered widespread blackouts and electricity spot price spikes.
Susie Green, head of the state’s apple and pear grower and cherry grower associations, said some farmers were now investing in generators for stability.
“More and more I’m hearing that people are looking at forms of back-up generation for irrigation pumps and all different systems around their orchards,” she said.
“Particularly as we come into the warmer months there’s certainly concern about security of power supply.
“The last thing we’d want is for the power to go out and not be able to pack cherries in the week before Christmas, so it’s really providing a guarantee that we can continue operating.”
It is good to see South Australia’s green government finally giving a little ground on renewables, however reluctantly.
But the damage to the South Australian economy and reputation, and damage to the willingness of big employers like BHP to invest and create desperately needed jobs, may take longer to recover.