The proponents of a pointless power source, abandoned centuries ago for pretty obvious reasons, which exists, and only exists by reason of massive subsidies drawn from power consumers and/or taxpayers have, from the outset, engaged in a well-orchestrated PR campaign aimed at winning ‘hearts and minds’.
An industry that wouldn’t survive a nanosecond without mandated subsidies; which is renowned for its thuggery, treachery, lies and deceit; riding roughshod over rural communities (beating up disabled farmers and pensioners, for example), driving people out of their homes due to incessant turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound; destroying landscapes; and slaughtering millions of birds and bats around the Globe, has to work overtime to maintain the social licence needed to maintain its place at the subsidy trough.
Once upon a time, there were plenty of well-meaning suburbanites that fell for wind power; and who were keen to spruik its perceived ‘benefits’ to others.
As the energy calamity unfolds in South Australia – due to its ludicrous attempt to run on sunshine and breezes – and in the aftermath of yet another Statewide blackout, the wind industry’s team of highly paid propagandists appear to have lost their battle.
People, who hitherto had little interest in, let alone knowledge of, small matters such as grid stability, frequency control and other technical chestnuts, upon which a reliable power supply depends, quickly armed themselves with the facts that surround SA’s wind power debacle.
We’ll start with last Friday’s editorial in The Australian.
Time to end the blackout culture in South Australia
30 September 2016
Soldier-surveyor William Light chose the site of Adelaide in 1836 and brought an enlightened approach to its planning that was ahead of the times.
Those now responsible for South Australia have invoked a renewable energy future while plunging into Third World darkness what was once a First World power system.
Homes without electricity, commuters stuck in lifts, business disrupted — it’s a national disgrace. The immediate causes of Wednesday’s blackout were fierce winds and lightning strikes. But the network has been weakened by the pursuit of recklessly high renewable energy targets. And the fact the whole system went down raises questions about its design. Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, who writes in these pages today, says questions “will be asked as to why the initial outage couldn’t be contained, preventing the blackout cascading across the state, and what measures should now be implemented to enhance the resilience of the system”.
We need a national, pragmatic approach to the electricity market, renewable power and energy security. As Mr Frydenberg says, “The first priority of government must be to keep the lights on.” We must also keep the competitive edge that cheap electricity has given us. For this reason, coal-fired power is likely to remain an important part of the energy mix for years to come. There is no obvious push for nuclear power, while wind and sun are intermittent (and heavily subsidised) power sources.
In May, South Australia’s Port Augusta coal-fired power station generated its last baseload power. Now the state depends on a neighbour (via interconnector with Victoria) and the nation’s biggest share of intermittent power (more than 40 per cent). The Weatherill government, which burnishes its clean, green credentials, relies on dirty brown coal-fired power from Victoria.
The weakness of the state’s position was made crystal clear during the July 7 cold snap. The interconnector with Victoria was down, wind was low and gas prices were high. Wholesale electricity prices spiked from an average $100 per megawatt hour to almost $14,000/MWh.
South Australians are expected to pay wholesale electricity prices roughly double those of other states for more than two years. Theirs is a mendicant state with inefficient manufacturing always in search of subsidy yet the competitive advantage of cheap electricity has been frittered away under the Weatherill government. The Premier has been oblivious to this truth.
In 2014, when he announced a 50 per cent renewable energy target, he boasted it would “create jobs and drive capital investment and advanced manufacturing industries”. Facts don’t get in the way of green power zealotry. Yesterday, for example, Greens energy spokesman Adam Bandt construed Malcolm Turnbull’s uncontroversial remarks on energy security as a cynical attempt to use a storm “fuelled by global warming” to set back the cause of renewable energy.
The interlocking causes of Wednesday’s blackout must be thoroughly examined. Mr Frydenberg quotes the Australian Energy Market Commission to the effect that the strength of the national grid has been reducing because wind and rooftop solar “have low or no physical inertia and are therefore currently limited in their ability to respond to sudden large changes in electricity supply or consumption”.
That vulnerability is acute in South Australia and the Weatherill government has been on notice.
The July 7 crisis itself was a cautionary tale for other states thinking of going down the South Australian road. And, in August, a 10-year outlook report from the Australian Energy Market Operator said South Australia would be at greater risk of blackouts with predicted closures of coal-fired power generation in Victoria. The reliability of power supply down the interconnector could not be taken for granted, the report said.
It’s clear we need national rules that balance energy security with changes to the energy mix in line with our pledge to reduce emissions to 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030. For the same period, Queensland has set a target for 50 per cent renewable energy. At the other end of the spectrum, NSW plans to reach 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020.
Monday’s report from the Grattan Institute highlights a disconnect between climate change policies and the electricity market, a disconnect that is bad news for investment. “This uncertainty is not helped by state governments progressing with their own renewable energy targets,” the report says. “Unilateral action by states or territories is likely to distort the implementation of national policies and increase costs with no net environmental benefit.”
The aim is not to dodge environmental challenges, it’s to devise an effective policy likely to minimise costs and unintended consequences. A blackout such as South Australia has suffered is a symbol of abject failure in one of the most fundamental tasks of government.
Talkback radio and the comment sections on articles dealing with SA’s blackout were peppered with callers and comments from people deeply critical of wind power, most of whom appear to have little sympathy for South Australia and the economic and social misery that its obsession with wind power has caused its bewildered proletariat.
Here’s a selection of the letters to The Australian to the same effect.
Questions raised by SA’s dependence on renewables
30 September 2016
Irrespective of the cause of the blackout in South Australia, the 40 per cent reliance on renewable energy and the resultant escalating price of electricity have driven businesses interstate and has caused economic and lifestyle hardship to the most vulnerable.
Climate does change and does so unexpectedly. It has been changing for years. It is impossible to determine when the sun won’t shine and the wind won’t blow. Relying on such renewables to the extent that SA has done is irresponsible.
Questions should be asked as to why the decision on such a high dependency on renewables was made and how we can have a more reliable and cost-effective energy source as a back-up. It would also be interesting to know how much this negative effect on our tottering economy, and on the wellbeing of the people of SA, contributes to the climate challenge.
Della-Putta, Thorngate, SA
As people and organisations count up the cost of lost revenue and opportunity of the blackout, remember the Greens and the Labor Party for making South Australia energy dependent and for dragging the state back into the dark ages. Without the ability to provide inexpensive and stable power, those who lost wages, income, products and possibly lives, can thank the state’s reduction in the only proven viable and reliable power generation technologies — coal and gas. As it stands, SA can look forward to more outages in the future.
James Hein, Hackney, SA
As South Australia was plunged into darkness, we can now look forward to the false narrative from the Left who will tell us this storm was the result of climate change.
The truth is that renewable energy has resulted in SA having unplanned Earth-hour events while paying Australia’s highest electricity prices and achieving zero environmental benefit. How much more proof do people need to reject the policies and plans of the Greens-Left?
Peter Castieau, Warwick, WA
The failure of renewable energy to power South Australia in the face of adverse weather conditions highlights the problem with green energy. The same fate will befall Victoria if the state government persists in the folly of going 50 per cent renewable by 2030. SA relies on the interconnector from Victoria to prop up its renewable energy grid. The state has closed its coal-fired power stations, and its gas generator is only operating at half capacity. Otherwise, SA has an abundance of gas generated capacity, but it’s cheaper to import coal-generated power from Victoria.
Hazelwood power station in Victoria is expected to close next year, and given that it provides 12 per cent of the state’s power, Victoria could suffer blackouts similar to the one experienced by SA. And not only Victoria would be affected — SA and Tasmania rely on back-up power from the Latrobe Valley.
It’s the responsibility of state governments to supply energy at all times, and in all conditions. Renewable energy targets should be reviewed and ways found to keep our coal-fired power stations working.
Alan Barron, Grovedale, Vic
Wind farms are useless on a calm day, but when it’s blowing a gale and you’d think they’d be in their element, they have to be shut down. Not only that, they can’t be started up again (presumably) without power from another source. Purists take the moral high ground, extreme environmentalism is their religion, and coal and gas are agents of Satan. Where has that got South Australia?
Elizabeth Moser, Newtown, Vic
Would South Australia have been blacked out if it had its own reliable coal-fired base-load power and did not have to import power from interstate? If the answer is yes, two things should happen: SA should re-establish its reliable domestic base-load power capacity using coal or gas, and the Labor government should resign.
Paul Tooker, Bald Knob, Qld
If South Australia’s green energy generated by subsidised foreign-owned wind farms can’t be relied on to simply keep the domestic lights on, how can it produce enough reliable industrial strength power to build submarines?
Yet, while Australia is reluctant to use its plentiful and cheap coal, gas and uranium resources, other countries are using them to become industrial and manufacturing power-houses.
Brian Whybrow, Wanniassa, ACT
Preoccupation with renewables sets the scene
1 October 2016
Short of an earthquake, a tsunami or an act of war, the blackout in South Australia is inexcusable. In the past, SA had an electricity authority that engaged in proper maintenance and upgrades, only to be raided by governments for reserves, thus causing a deterioration of infrastructure.
Add to that an expensive and one-eyed governmental preoccupation with renewables and the scene was set for greater risk. Blaming Mother Nature, as the SA Premier has done, fails to recognise the inadequate stewardship in energy management by his and previous governments.
The blackout should never have happened — SA consumers pay the highest electricity prices in the country and are entitled to very much better than that.
Michael Schilling, Millswood, SA
All Australian governments have taken their eyes off the ball in respect of the reliability and affordability of the supply of energy in pursuit of costly emissions reduction policies that are unlikely to ever justify their cost. It is time to reappraise the approach and better balance present economic strength with possible tiny gains in a distant and uncertain future. Whether or not warming continues and proves harmful, a robust and adaptable economy will be our best defence against that and other shocks. And this depends on reliable, low-cost power supply.
Michael Cunningham, West End, Qld
I recall that someone said the lights would go out in Whyalla on the back of Labor-Greens energy policies and was vilified for it. Yet now we are seeing industrial, mining and primary production enterprises and communities in Whyalla, Roxby Downs, Port Lincoln and across regional SA closed down, facing tens, if not hundreds of millions in losses.
Yet if the coal-fired power station at Port Augusta had not been closed down through such Labor-Greens policies, then all of these regional centres and enterprises would have had access to the power they need to minimise damage and get up and running again almost immediately.
As it is, with Whyalla’s steel works already in administration, its chances of now finding the buyer it needs to stay open appear more remote than SA losing its reputation as the tin-cup state.
Andrew Lake, Edwardstown, SA
Wind power and solar power are, as far as can be seen, impractical as significant sources of energy. It is not the case that any technology, merely by virtue of being technologically superior to those presently in use, would displace others. Such complete replacement would occur only if it were justified by market prices.
Why does the South Australian government support green energy? Because the free market won’t. Any government policy that overrides consumer authority and vetoes the free choices of capital owners and property owners is a policy of capital consumption which must undermine the foundations of productivity.
Victor Diskordia, McKellar, ACT
Hmmm… not a whole lot of support for wind power being expressed there; and even less sympathy for South Australians.
In our travels we’ve met plenty of people that started out in favour of wind power and turned against it. But we’ve yet to meet anyone who started out opposed to wind power, who later became a supporter.
South Australia’s wind power debacle has turned it into an International laughing stock; and helped to turn an entire political class against wind power, forever: once someone tumbles to the fiction of trying to run on breezes, they’ll never be fooled again.
With every blackout; with every load-shedding event (ie ‘regional blackout’); with every spot price spike to the $14,000 per MWh market cap; and with every retail power price hike in SA, a new cohort is added to the growing band who see wind power for what it is: the greatest economic and environmental fraud of all time.