Experts defend renewable energy after SA blackout

By Kelly Emmerton ·

Following the statewide blackout that left 1.7 million South Australians weathering gale-force winds and flooding rains without electricity on September 28, renewable energy experts have defended the use of solar and wind power.

South Australia is a national leader in non-hydro renewable energy, with more than 40% of its electricity sourced from wind and solar power. SA met its goal of 33% renewable energy in 2014, and on one notable day in the same year, renewable energy accounted for more than 100% of SA’s electricity needs. Now, the target to hit is 50% renewables by 2025.

But the state’s reliance on wind power is now being partially blamed for the blackout.

According to a preliminary report from the Australian Energy Market Operator, the blackout began with storm damage to three major transmission lines. This was followed by wind farms disconnecting from the energy grid, causing a massive load spike on the interconnector to Victoria.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said, “There is no doubt that a heavy reliance on intermittent renewables, by which in South Australia we are mostly talking about wind, does place very different strains and pressures on a grid than reliance on traditional base load power. Let’s take this storm in South Australia… as a real wake-up call. Let’s end the ideology and focus on clear renewable targets.”

To that end, Government State Energy Ministers have been called to review the Aussie electricity market and consider forming uniform renewable energy targets.

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The South Australian Government also held a separate renewable energy summit in Adelaide, aimed at dispelling fears around the viability of renewables. New York Chairman of Energy, Richard Kauffman said it was difficult to pinpoint the source of blame for the blackout.

“The problems in the electricity system didn’t commence with a generator disconnection, it commenced with steel pylons falling over because of the ferocity of the wind. They (wind farms) went down as they were designed to do, to protect themselves. That is the intention of safety circuits at the end of the day they protect the device,” he said.

Under the circumstances, he added, gas-reliant generators probably would have fallen off the grid just as quickly as the wind farms did.

Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie had her eye on the big picture, saying that, “The storms that happened last week were influenced by climate change.”

She stressed that renewables would be an effective solution to combatting the global issue of climate change, and that “...we need to look at all our infrastructure across the state to think about how it will be resilient to climate change and ensure that we know all the information and we are upgrading those systems.”

And renewables don’t need to take a heavy toll on Aussies pockets either, with Mozo’s Experts Choice Awards recently revealing the Solar Friendly Electricity and Greenpower products offering the best value in each state. To check them out, visit the Awards page, or to compare all energy plans and find one to suit your needs, try our energy comparison tool.

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