Power cuts and high bills have made South Australia a laughing stock – and there’s no relief in sight
Yep, South Australia is leading the nation all right – but not in a good way.
The power supply and pricing crisis has sparked national debate as other states begin to realise that what has unfolded in SA will happen to the rest of the country if they don’t learn the lessons.
So leading the nation is not really the right expression – SA is the canary in the coalmine. Or, more to the point, the canary without a coalmine.
What this state has done was foolish and irresponsible and, almost inconceivably, Victoria plans to head down the same path.
If the Vics don’t learn from our mistakes they will be hurt in the same way and, what’s worse, it will increase the pain for SA, too.
Because the only thing saving this state from energy oblivion at the moment is reliable and plentiful coal-fired, baseload power from Victoria, supplied via the interconnector.
If Victoria also boosts renewable energy to such an extent that the coal generators shut, our economic future will be left blowing in the wind.
Treasurer and Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis wants to blame everyone else. Yet Labor has been in power for 14 years, overseeing the switch to wind energy and boasting about how it makes up a larger share of the energy mix – more than 40 per cent – than in any other state.
Great. Pretend you’re saving the planet with ridiculously expensive and unreliable energy while the rest of the country enjoys cheaper electricity that doesn’t run out when the wind stops blowing.
Koutsantonis says what’s missing is a proper national electricity market. Sure, he should have organised an interconnector with NSW, or boosted the one with Victoria before now, but that’s as far as it goes.
And he should have thought of that a decade ago, before forcing out the coal-fired generators at Port Augusta.
On radio last week, Koutsantonis comforted himself with how this problem is now “coming to” the other states too, and with the fact SA’s energy demand is decreasing because large energy users are moving overseas.
Really, we wonder why they would be doing that! The State Government claims to support manufacturing but drives companies away with high power prices.
Infuriatingly, this has all been done for political fashion. The Rann and Weatherill governments have gone for green energy – encouraged by Canberra’s bipartisan Renewable Energy Target – because it makes everyone feel like they are saving the planet.
It doesn’t, of course, because whatever trifling amount of emissions that are saved annually in SA are more than made up for in a matter of weeks by increasing emissions in China and India.
So this is all pain, no gain.
When the wind doesn’t blow or the interconnector is broken, we’re stuck.
At the federal election, Labor promised an RET of 50 per cent by 2030, and the Daniels Labor government in Victoria wants to match SA’s renewable energy push.
It sounds lovely but it will jeopardise power supply and increase costs which is why the rest of the country is watching SA closely.
Because wind doesn’t always blow, you have to have enough back-up generation to supply all your needs without it. Therefore, you need double the investment for the same amount of electricity supply.
So electricity costs have to rise and there is always the risk the non-subsidised generators will close, leaving a supply shortage as SA discovered.
We all pay way too much for electricity, our taxes remain too high, our power infrastructure is duplicated and the global environment doesn’t improve anyway because the emissions saved in this country are infinitesimal compared to the growth in emissions elsewhere.
Labor and the Greens are leading us down a road to economic ruin and the Liberals aren’t much better, failing to call this stuff out for fear of being dubbed climate deniers.
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