Beyond Help: Power Rationing New Normal in Wind & Solar ‘Powered’ South Australia

South Australians know an awful lot about sweating in the dark and, thanks to their fixation on wind and solar power, its hapless proletariat will get to learn a whole lot more.

Renowned by the renewable cult as Australia’s ‘wind and solar capital’, SA suffers Australia’s highest power prices and, quite naturally, Australia’s highest rate of unemployment. It is also renowned as an economic backwater, best described as an old folks home for poor people.

It wasn’t always so.

Once upon a time, South Australians enjoyed electricity delivered reliably and at retail prices amongst the lowest in the world, and, no, it wasn’t a dream.

The Electricity Trust of South Australia (ETSA) was the brainchild of agrarian socialist, Liberal Premier, Sir Thomas Playford, which he established with one goal – to provide cheap, reliable power to fuel economic growth through manufacturing, mining and industry, which it did in grand fashion. ETSA used cheap and abundant brown coal – mined near Leigh Creek and trucked by rail to Port Augusta – to deliver power to all and sundry.

Prior to WWII, most towns and many regional centres in SA were still being powered by diesel generators – many towns were still on ageing 32 volt systems; delivery was sporadic and the cost was high – not the stuff that industrial dreams are made of. Tom saw electricity as essential to investment and growth. So he made every effort to see that South Australians had access to power almost wherever they were: from 1946 to 1965, the proportion of South Australians connected to electricity increased from 70% to 96%. For more on Tom Playford and ETSA, see our post here.

Given what’s happened to his beloved state, Tom Playford must surely be rolling in his grave.

Contrary to Tom’s vision of cheap power for all, whenever the sun sets and calm weather sets in, during peak demand, South Australians are left scrambling for power: getting it either from coal-fired power plants in Victoria via interconnectors across its border; or, when the interconnectors hit their transmission limits, it fires up hundreds of megawatts worth of diesel fuelled ship engines and/or open cycle gas turbines, also run on diesel.

With the self-inflicted damage done, its hapless Liberal State government has clearly conceded defeat, with its latest Soviet-era plan to routinely ration electricity – according to what the weather is doing to wind power output and where the Sun sits in the sky.

Is it any wonder the best and brightest leave South Australia as fast as their beaten up Holden Commodores can carry them?

Plan to switch off air-con, pool pump and hot water remotely to shore up power grid
The Advertiser
Chris Russell
15 April 2021

Being able to turn off solar isn’t enough. The Government now wants electricity retailers to be able to switch off your air-con and pool pumps.

Household air conditioners, pool pumps, hot water systems and electric vehicle chargers would be switched off remotely when the power grid is under pressure, under changes planned by the State Government.

The appliances could also be switched on externally – rather than by the householder – when there is not enough demand in the system, the Energy and Mining Department says.

Reforms are needed because of the impact of rooftop solar but would apply to all households.

Compulsory new requirements for these energy-hungry appliances to have technical capability for remote control have been agreed by the nation’s energy ministers but South Australia wants to move faster than other states.

“While SA supports a national approach … national progress does not match the growing significance of minimum demand and peak demand challenges in SA,” the department says.

Energy and Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the changes aimed to cut costs for households which opted in to their retailer using the remote controls.

“These are important measures to deliver lower bills for households which choose to participate, by rewarding them with access to the cheapest available electricity,” he said.

“It will be completely up to consumers whether they accept offers from retailers, such as cheaper power for heating water or charging electric cars when there’s more abundant renewable energy available in the grid.”

The changes follow new State Government rules that all new solar systems must be capable of being switched off remotely. This was first applied on March 14 when more than 10,000 SA home solar systems were stopped from exporting power.

The new reforms look at the other side of the equation – giving electricity system operators more control of the demand side.

The department acknowledged changes would add cost to appliances and reduce the range of models available.

Modelling for the government puts these costs at $27m to $45m but says benefits would be $70m to $95m, because of a reduced need to upgrade the electricity grid.

In saying how changes would be implemented the department said: “It is proposed that the Energy Products (Safety and Efficiency) Act 2000 will be used to create an offence for offering for sale air conditioners, electric vehicle chargers and pool pump controllers, that do not comply with an energy performance standard relating to demand response capability.”

The Department said energy ministers nationally have already agreed that water heaters sold from 2023 must be capable of being turned off (emergency load shedding).

It says the Department’s preferred option was for SA to have “early adoption of the energy ministers decision” and to go further – with inclusion of capability for bigger hot water tanks to be switched on to increase demand.

On radio, Mr Van Holst Pellekaan said he had “no intention” of making the new standards compulsory and that, at this stage, the Government was only interested in trialling the technology.

Targeting only select appliances would avoid turning off entire households during rolling blackouts of suburbs.

It is expected households with solar could continue to power their appliances behind the meter.

The department is consulting industry on when to introduce the changes, with a range of dates between July this year and 2025. Different start dates may be used for different appliances. They would be fitted with devices to dial down use to half or three-quarter power or to be switched on and off.

Companies had until last week to make submissions to the department on the reforms.
The Advertiser

So, there you have it. A state that was once a manufacturing and mineral processing powerhouse, reduced to rationing electricity for households, simply because it blew up its coal-fired power plants (the ones built by Tom Playford) and remains fixated on the delusion that it can run itself entirely on sunshine and breezes (with the odd mega-battery thrown in). And why?

Well, it’s moments like this – a setting Sun and dead calm weather – from here on, the moment when South Australians will have their ACs, pool pumps, and other useful appliances shut off by a wind and solar obsessed government that simply can’t provide enough electricity to power to its State.  Welcome to you wind and Sun ‘powered’ future!

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Peter Pronczak says:

    REs next non compulsory compliance trick…sit up & beg for food…odd numbers one day, even the next.
    An old movie had generators under brothel beds, add some pedal power & the iffy French designed submarines get built on time & under budget. Except they have solar panels & sails.

    Wasn’t the southern Victorian interconnector shut off a few years ago leaving only the northern one?

  2. ““These are important measures to deliver lower bills for households which choose to participate, by rewarding them with access to the cheapest available electricity,” he said.”

    And the other mug punters are left to pay the costs.
    Just as they pay the subsidies for unreliables, roof solar installation and feed-in tariffs.
    Where are the engineers? They should be calling this out for the farce that it is.

  3. With all this fiddling at the edges, our collapsing electricity grid can be likened to a rubber band being slowly stretched to its breaking point.
    SNAP – that was one of the huge interconnectors melting down.

  4. Rafe Champion says:

    Interesting to see how the power supply in SA at breakfast and dinnertime depends almost always on coal power from Victoria with help Tasmanian hydro power when the wind is low across the south of the continent.
    At those times of day there is little or no solar power incoming, The surge of solar just wrecks the stability of the grid and destroys the financial viablilty of coal power.
    Increasing the installed capacity makes no difference at the bottom end when the wind “tank” is empty and the sun is off duty but it does make the gird stability problem worse when the supply is at the top end of the scale.

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