20 March, 2017
Courtesy of the Adelaide Advertiser
THE State Government was warned eight years ago that generating more than 20 per cent of South Australia’s electricity using wind farms would destabilise the grid, documents reveal.
Senator Nick Xenophon said it proved the state’s power crisis — which prompted Premier Jay Weatherill to announce a $550 million taxpayer-funded energy plan — was “completely avoidable”.
Two reports prepared for the Department of Premier and Cabinet in 2009 when the Labor Government was setting a new state-based renewable energy target state that grid stability would be compromised if wind generation surpassed 20 per cent.
During the second half of 2016, wind made up 30 per cent of the electricity generated in SA.
“Here’s the proof that this energy crisis was completely avoidable,” Senator Xenophon said.
“The alarm bells were ringing eight years ago but the Labor Government was deaf to the concerns.
“The Government was either asleep at the wheel or reckless in pursuing a jump in renewables without ensuring grid security.”
Senator Xenophon said the reports “spell out” that South Australia could not increase the percentage of wind above 20 per cent without destabilising the grid.
The McLennan Magasanik Associates report states: “A level of 20 per cent wind capacity is proposed as a level that can be achieved without compromising grid stability,”
Another report, by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research, advised: “Limitations on wind power output to ensure South Australian grid stability is estimated to be associated with about a 20 per cent limit on wind capacity.”
Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the state should be “proud of our leadership in renewable energy” and insisted that it was not to blame for any blackout.
“The National Electricity Market is an ageing grid, and it has to be managed and updated as new forms of technology are integrated into the system,” he said.
He said Senator Xenophon’s criticism was disappointing given he had supported the Government’s energy plan.
Both the reports note that if baseload generation and connection with other states was increased, more wind power could be put into the grid.
However, since then both the Playford B and Northern coal-fired power stations closed while the upgrade of the Heywood interconnector only began construction in August 2015 and was still in progress.
One report stated wind plant and grid management technology improvements could also allow more to be fed into the grid.
The reports found between a 30 to 40 per cent state-based renewable energy target by 2020 would be achievable but predicted greater use of biomass and the establishment of geothermal technology.
In 2009 the Rann Government increased the state’s renewable energy target to 33 per cent by 2020 which was achieved in 2013-14 and then 2014 a new target of 50 per cent by 2025 was set.
In 2015-16 about 43 per cent of the state’s power generation came from renewable sources.
Meanwhile, two more federal ministers have expressed support for the energy package’s aim of unlocking more gas supply by paying royalties to landholders.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has already backed the move, as has Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg.
On Sunday, Health Minister Greg Hunt — the former environment minister — and Resources Minister Matt Canavan said unlocking resources was important.