Xenophon slams SA’s renewables adoption

Snowtown Wind Farm, South Australia. Image: econews.com.au

Senator Nick Xenophon has blamed renewables for the state-wide blackout in South Australia yesterday.

South Australia has been lashed by a severe storm over the past 24 hours, which has caused serious damage to more than 20 transmission lines. This has caused strain to the interconnector system linking the SA electricity grid with the east coast, and tripped safeguards which shut down the state’s power supply.

In an interview with the ABC, Xenophon attributed this incident to the state’s reliance on renewable energy.

The senator stated that South Australia’s transition to renewable energy “has been reckless”, adding that “we have relied too much on wind rather than baseload renewables, rather than baseload power, including gas”. He continued to state that while gas is a fossil fuel, it is 50 per cent cleaner than coal and would serve well in the transition to renewables.

Tony Wood, energy program director at the Grattan Institute, has rejected Xenophon’s claims.

According to Wood, in the face of a violent storm, it is essential for a power system to shut down to protect itself from further damage.

“There is no evidence to suggest this was caused by too much wind power, or the dependence on wind power, or anything else, or would’ve been any different if any of the power stations that had been shut down earlier this year had still been operating,” he told the ABC.

“If you’ve got a wind farm or a coal-fired power station at the end of a transmission line, and that system either is taken out by a storm or is forced to shut down to protect itself from a storm, it doesn’t matter what the energy source is.”

More than 40 per cent of South Australia’s power supply is generated from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind farms.

This latest criticism by Xenophon comes not long after an incident in which less than one per cent of the installed renewable capacity in SA was found to be generating power, which resulted in an extreme spike in energy prices. This has led many to criticise the state’s adoption of renewables.

NSW Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy, Anthony Roberts, said the main lesson to be taken from the above incident “is that we must not forget the importance of maintaining overall grid security and stability”.