Senator Chris Back has repeated his call for a moratorium on new wind farms being constructed until the Productivity Commission completes a cost-benefit analysis of the effect the industry is having on the National Electricity Market (NEM) and retail electricity prices.
Following the current energy crisis in South Australia and Tasmania resulting in the highest energy prices on record paid by consumers, businesses, schools and hospitals, Senator Back again called for the Coalition Government to adopt the Senate Inquiry recommendation that, the Australian Government direct the Productivity Commission to conduct research into the impact of wind power electricity generation on retail electricity prices. The Government is yet to respond to the recommendations of that Inquiry.
Electricity prices in South Australia this week hit $14,000 per MWh as wind generated power sources failed to meet demand. This has lead to companies such as BHP Billiton and Arrium Steel threatening to review their operations. The price for power in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria was $32/MWh in the same period.
Senator Back said the current lack of performance measurement is not acceptable – it would not be tolerated in any other industry let alone one reliant on mandated subsidies. Failure to properly monitor the true impact of an industry that comes at a high cost to the nation’s economy and electricity consumers in particular is now being realised.
Senator Back added that the Renewable Energy Target (RET) which is imposed on conventional energy suppliers acts as a tax on energy to fund a subsidy to selected renewable energy generators.
“This is the big issue that the Coalition Government is now confronting– after 13 years of operation it has become clear that the objectives of the Act have not been reflected in the outcomes. While the investment in renewable energy has increased, from a carbon abatement perspective, the legislation has been all but totally ineffective in its objective of substantially reducing CO2 emissions in the electricity sector.”
Claims that the long-term effects of wind power will reduce retail power prices are fundamentally flawed. Furthermore, energy generated by wind farms does not reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector by the amounts claimed. In fact, the evidence based on available data shows that adding intermittent wind power into a conventional grid actually increases CO2 emissions; defeating the justification for the colossal cost of the scheme.
Grid managers are required to keep fossil fuel generating plants constantly running in the background to maintain balance within the grid in order to account for dramatic fluctuations in wind power output which occur on a minute by minute basis while base-load generators are required to maintain spinning and synchronised reserve for occasions when wind power output collapses as it does on a routine but unpredictable basis. The requirement to maintain spinning reserve means that base-load generators are burning coal and gas at a constant rate even though no power is being dispatched to the grid.
The RET scheme was never intended to act as an unchecked, single industry subsidy. “With the disastrous example set by South Australia, comes a growing public awareness of the massive cost of subsidy entitlements under the large scale RET scheme, the permanent disruption to once functional power markets and the associated grid instability. What we have witnessed is load shedding and blackouts that stem from reliance on wind power. It will become harder over time to find supporters for subsidised wind power with the forced-closure of energy dependant businesses, thousands of households unable to afford power and routine supply interruptions when the wind stops blowing.”
“The current situation in South Australia provides a wake-up call. There should be no further subsidies paid for an intermittent and unreliable power source that can be seen as a proven failure. There are solutions to our climate challenges but wind power is not one of them,” Senator Back said.
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