Blackouts Down Under: South Australia Pays The Price For Heavy Reliance On Renewable Energy

blackoutIn an unprecedented development, the state of South Australia was cut-off from the national electricity network. Wednesday’s event will trigger renewed debate over the state’s heavy reliance on renewable energy which has forced the closure of uncompetitive power stations, putting the electricity network in South Australia under stress. Earlier this week, the Grattan Institute warned that South Australia’s high reliance on renewable energy sources left it exposed to disruptions. It pointed to the fact that while the renewable energy target had encouraged the development of wind and solar generation, it had the potential to undermine supply security at a reasonable price, because it forced the closure of inefficient power stations without encouraging the construction of the necessary new generation supply sources. –Brian Robins, The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 September 2016

Malcolm Turnbull has blasted state Labor governments for setting aggressive and unrealistic renewable energy targets. A statewide blackout in South Australia, triggered by ferocious storms on Wednesday that damaged one of its power stations and 20 transmission towers, has set off a debate about renewable energy. The prime minister said energy security must be a key priority for governments. “If you are stuck in an elevator, if the lights won’t go on, if your fridge is thawing out, everything in the kitchen is thawing out because the power is gone, you are not going to be concerned about the particular source of that power,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Launceston. “You want to know that the energy is secure.” —Australian Associated Press, 30 September 2016

In light of the statewide blackout in South Australia, the GWPF is warning that intermittent wind and solar energy pose a serious and growing energy security risk and threaten to undermine the reliability of electricity generation. A paper published by the GWPF two years ago (UK Energy Security: Myth and Reality) warned that the ability of the electrical grid to absorb intermittent renewable energy becomes increasingly more hazardous with scale. In fact, wind and solar power, because of the intermittent nature of the electricity generated, are the real risk to security of supply. —Global Warming Policy Forum, 30 September 2016

The Government is facing fresh calls to overhaul its energy policy to cut costs for consumers, as new analysis claims renewables policies alone will equate to £466 a year for every UK household by 2020. The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), the right-wing think tank behind the analysis, and petrochemicals giant Ineos are both also calling for the Government to scrap its unilateral UK carbon tax, which pushes up energy bills. In a paper released today, the CPS is highly critical of energy policy in general, arguing the electricity system is now “precarious” and suggesting Britain could be heading for blackouts as old coal plants close. –Emily Gosden, The Daily Telegraph 29 September 2016

China has ordered major coal mines to raise thermal coal output by another 500,000 tonnes per day, the latest concerted effort by the government to boost supplies to its electric utilities ahead of the winter, sources said on Tuesday. Experts say the rapid-fire calls for output increases reflect growing panic about the unintended consequences of Beijing’s efforts to cut excess coal mining and shift the country towards using renewable energy sources. —Reuters, 28 September 2016

Reminder: The Obama Administration today finalized groundbreaking standards that will increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025. In total, the Administration’s national program to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reduce U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels. “These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said President Obama. “This historic agreement builds on the progress we’ve already made to save families money at the pump and cut our oil consumption.” –-The White House, 28 August 2012

August was the biggest month ever for U.S. gasoline consumption. Americans used a staggering 9.7 million barrels per day. The new peak comes as a surprise to many. In 2012, energy expert Daniel Yergin said, “The U.S. has already reached what we can call ‘peak demand.” Many others agreed. The U.S. Department of Energy forecast in 2012 that U.S. gasoline consumption would steadily decline for the foreseeable future. This seemed to make sense at the time. U.S. gasoline consumption had declined for five years in a row and, in 2012, was a million barrels per day below its July 2007 peak. Also in August 2012, President Obama had just announced aggressive new fuel economy standards that would push average vehicle fuel economy to 54 miles per gallon. Fast forward to 2016, and U.S. gasoline consumption has increased steadily four years in a row. We now have a new peak. –Lucas Davis, The Energy Collective, 28 September 2016