South Australian yesterday – again – experienced power blackouts, this time due to heat-related high demand exceeding supply. Over-reliance on renewable energy is not the problem:
With the interconnector to Victoria included, South Australia has more than enough power generation to cover demand even on the most extreme days.
There is a huge but, however:
But a large and growing proportion of that generation is from intermittent renewable sources like wind and solar.
When the wind isn’t blowing, the market operator can’t direct wind farms to dispatch power.
The Heywood Interconnector was recently expanded to allow greater power to flow in or out of the state. But it still has a limit of about 600 megawatts.
The market for electricity is much tighter in South Australia since the closure of the state’s sole coal-fired power plant in Port Augusta, Northern, last year.
AEMO has forecast potential lack of power reserves across this summer, and every summer, until additional supply is added to the mix.
The solution won’t be cheap:
South Australia needs more sources of power that can be dispatched on demand.
Local authorities are already investigating the possibility of an additional interconnector to NSW, Victoria or Queensland.
If they decide to proceed, the solution will take years and cost power users billions of dollars.
Other potential options include storage of renewable energy — through batteries, pumped hydro or other technology.
The SA Government is also seeking to stimulate a new market entrant, in all likelihood a gas generator, by offering a long-term contract to supply 75 per cent of its own power needs.
In short, South Australia’s ongoing power problems are directly related to renewables, which can’t be relied to provide electricity as needed, and the fix is going to cost billions. Ain’t renewable energy wonderful?