POWER OUT: Police direct traffic around the CBD in Adelaide after the power network stops working. Wednesday September, 28, 2016.
POWER OUT: Police direct traffic around the CBD in Adelaide after the power network stops working. Wednesday September, 28, 2016. DAVID MARIUZ-AAP

MY SAY: Debate over SA blackout ridiculous

IT WILL rank as one of the more ridiculous political debates in history upon reflection.

The supercells that wiped out the South Australian power grid last week were unprecedented in power and effect.

More than 20 transmission lines were wiped out by the one-in-50-year storm, yet the inter-connectors linking the South Australian electricity grid to the east coast remained intact and operational.

The added strain on the system tripped safeguards on those inter-connectors, pitching the state into darkness.

While hard to imagine in this day and age that an entire state, all 984,000 sq km of it, more than seven times the size of England, could be plunged into the Dark Ages, what's even harder to imagine was the debate following that actually took us back into the Dark Ages.

According to plenty, Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, Senator Nick Xenophon and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce among them, the mass blackout raised serious questions over the state's reliance on renewable energy.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull claimed the state's aggressive pursuit of a shift to renewables had strained the state's electricity network.

That's not altogether untrue, but the fact is, blaming renewable energy for a widespread energy outage when we saw transmission towers literally snapped in half seemed a stretch.

Sure, it's a fact that South Australia's reliance on gas, solar and wind power has massively reduced coal power production and increased a reliance on the inter-connectors in times of crisis.

There is an argument that coal production could have provided the stable flow of power needed to maintain backup power during last week's storm.

The loss of significant power infrastructure caused added pressure on the interconnected power supply to eastern states used to prop up South Australian energy when renewables fail. That added pressure led to a shutdown of the inter-connectors.

There is a theory that the renewables, particularly wind power, were too volatile during the storm, unable to deliver a steady energy flow needed to maintain the grid.

Ultimately, it was the shutdown of the inter-connectors, not renewable energy itself, that plunged the state into black.

What the debate should've centred around was a better way to integrate renewables into the existing grid to ensure events like this don't happen.

How to improve renewable systems to create a steady energy flow and how to blend green energy infrastructure into already-established grids.

It should've provided a lesson, not an opportunity to push a rapidly out-dating, fossil fuel agenda.



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