Government maintains attack on renewables as officials advise otherwise – February 2017

Filed under: Trade and industry, Energy,

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has accused the Labor State governments of “a shocking failure of leadership” by setting “unrealistic” renewable energy targets.

The attack came as briefings to the Government from public servants following the massive blackout in South Australia in September showed the Government was advised the blackouts were not caused by renewable energy.

The briefings were obtained under Freedom of Information by The Australia Institute.

While the Government came under scrutiny for its contentious claims about renewable energy and the South Australian energy crisis, Labor was criticised for its inability to outline the details of its renewable energy policy and its likely cost.

Mr Turnbull said in a brief speech Cabinet’s energy committee: “Now, more than ever, Australians need affordable and reliable electricity, affordable and reliable energy, as we meet our emissions reductions targets.

“We’ve seen in South Australia in 41-degrees heat, what happens when governments follow an ideological approach to energy, with no plan; complacently assuming that things would sort themselves out, without putting in place the measures to secure their electricity network.

“We will provide the leadership Australians need so that families, businesses, get the power that they need …

“We can’t afford to go the way South Australia has, which has the most expensive and the least reliable electricity in Australia.”

According to TAI “Documents now released under Freedom of Information, through requests by The Australia Institute, show AEMO told federal public servants and political advisors that renewable energy was not to blame for the blackout.”

Extracts of the briefings compiled by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet for the Prime Minister and Energy Minister say, “There has been unprecedented damage to the network (ie bigger than any other event in Australia), with 20+ steel transmission towers down in the north of the State due to wind damage (between Adelaide and Port Augusta). The electricity network was unable to cope with such a sudden and large loss of generation at once.”

TAI says, “Then comes the key statement. The summary of the AEMO (Australian Energy Market Regulator) call says that AEMOs advice is that the generation mix (ie renewable or fossil fuel) was not to blame for yesterday’s events – it was the loss of 1000 MW of power in such a short space of time as transmission lines fell over.”

Labor’s policy came under incrased scrutiny after Bill Shorten first declined to specify the likely cost of Labor’s goal to have 50% of Australia’s electricity generated from renewable sources by 2030 and then, later, as confusion developed over whether the 50 per cent was a firm Labor target or something vaguer.

The ABC reported that the Australian Energy Council (AEC) has warned that the Government needs to take urgent action to improve its energy policies before the rest of Australia falls victim to the type of large-scale blackouts experienced in South Australia.

About 90,000 South Australian homes and businesses were blacked out in the latest such incident when the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) issued a load-shedding order to avoid potential damage to the network equipment due to supply deficiency.

It asked for more power generators to be switched on but did not receive “sufficient bids” and said it did not have enough time to turn on the second unit at Pelican Point.

AEC chief executive officer Matthew Warren said there was no shortage of available power, but it was not dispatched when required.

He said the entire nation's system needed upgrading quickly because energy reliability was not just a state issue.

“We're seeing generators leave the market and we are not replacing them,” Mr Warren said. “If you keep doing that, you will have more blackouts.”

Mr Warren said South Australia was the first to experience this “but Victoria is next”.

“And if we don't do anything about this, if we keep just doing nothing about energy policy … this will spread to New South Wales and Queensland and to the rest of the country,” he said.

He said energy policy has been politicised for the past decade due to climate change but now required urgent action.

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