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It’s that bad — talk of “declaring emergencies” and nationalizing South Australian electricity

Smell the desperation

Here in Oz, political lives are in turmoil. Suddenly “load shedding” is the topic de jour, and there are hit lists of suburbs in the firing line. It’s a long list.  Welcome to your green future.

The language is ramping up.  The SA state government is talking of a “dramatic intervention in the electricity market”.

The plans are “advanced” but they apparently don’t know what that intervention is. It could be a script for “Yes Minister”:

 Premier Jay Weatherill said the plans were well advanced, and all options remained on the table.

“One option is to completely nationalise the system,” Mr Weatherill said.

“That’s an extraordinary option. It would involve breaking contracts and exposing us to sovereign risk and the South Australian taxpayers to extraordinary sums of money. “It’s not a preferred option but we’re ruling nothing out at this point.”

Even if there were no more blackouts in SA, how much stress is added by not knowing if the electricity will be cut off without warning? How many people are preemptively running air conditioners early or all day?

The situation has changed so much that even Malcolm Turnbull, the man who fell on his sword for a carbon tax in 2009, is now scathing about renewables:

“What they did in a lazy and complacent way is they just assumed they could suck more and more energy from Victoria from those very emissions-intensive brown coal generators in the Latrobe valley,” he said.

Which is quite unfair. SA was not lazy. It took real effort and a lot of money to create this much instability.

Malcolm-come-lately’s warning to SA might have been more useful had he said this before they drove their last coal fired plant out of business. The “stunning Turnbull turnaround” on renewables is being received with dismay by some at the ABC. (Shame the ABC doesn’t allow comments on that story).

Is it a “state of emergency”?

The Federal Minister thinks so, the state Minister doesn’t:

Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg said the SA Government should have declared an emergency on Wednesday to direct Pelican Point to be turned on.

“Under the rules, it is solely up to the South Australian Government to decide if there was an emergency, and in doing so be in a position to direct Pelican Point to supply,” he said.

AEMO is a corporate body charged with the administration and operation of the national wholesale electricity market.

SA Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said he could only direct AEMO in times of state emergency, such as fire, flood, earthquake and war.

With a heatwave running and potentially an increase in the mortality rate, those in poor health might consider it an emergency to have their air conditioning subject to rolling blackouts. (It was certainly an emergency for local bats). The SA electricity grid is a ‘basket case’: says  Frydenberg.


Note the energy geniuses at the ABC offer up all solutions except the most obvious and cheap one:

What’s the solution?

South Australia needs more sources of power that can be dispatched on demand.

Local authorities are already investigating the possibility of an additional interconnector to NSW, Victoria or Queensland.

If they decide to proceed, the solution will take years and cost power users billions of dollars.

Other potential options include storage of renewable energy — through batteries, pumped hydro or other technology.

The SA Government is also seeking to stimulate a new market entrant, in all likelihood a gas generator, by offering a long-term contract to supply 75 per cent of its own power needs.

h/t Scott of the Pacific and David B.

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