Originally posted on the Australian. Written by Rachel Baxendale. Read more: here.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor has accused the Andrews government of “deliberately trashing” the reliability of the Victorian electricity grid by encouraging investment in variable renewable generation without backup and storage.
The comments came after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews talked up the “reliability” of renewable energy in his first public comments since Friday’s meltdown, despite solar and wind power combined providing just 14.3 per cent of the state’s power at the height of the crisis.
Mr Taylor said a policy of investment in renewables without backup generation was “always going to end badly … (Mr Andrews) doesn’t understand that variable power is not necessarily there when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.
“We need enough baseload power, enough dispatchable 24/7 reliable power in the system, balancing the system, that ensures that the lights are on 24/7.”
Extreme heat and the failure of three coal-fired power units with a combined 1800 megawatt capacity prompted the market operator to order load-shedding blackouts to prevent the grid from shutting down at 12pm on Friday, cutting power to more than 200,000 Victorian households and businesses in rolling outages.
An hour later, 1236MW, or 14.3 per cent of Victoria’s power, was coming from wind and solar generators, compared with 3105MW (36 per cent) from brown coal, 2129MW (24.7 per cent) from gas and 2151MW (25 per cent) from hydro, according to Australian Energy Market Operator figures analysed by NEMWatch for Renew Economy.
Meanwhile, in South Australia, 67.8 per cent of the state’s energy was being generated by gas, with a small amount (82MW) coming from back-up diesel generators.
Victoria was getting energy from South Australia at the time, as the cool change had swept across SA but not hit Melbourne.
Asked whether his government could guarantee there would not be a repeat of Friday’s load-shedding event ahead of hot weather later this week, Mr Andrews blamed “old, privatised, coal-fired power stations” for Friday’s failure. “We’re not investing in renewable energy just because it’s popular — and it is, by the way,” he said. “While units were falling over in our coal-fired power stations, renewable energy was going strong last Friday.”
Mr Andrews said he would have “more to say” about further investment and reform to shore-up Victoria’s power supply for the summers ahead, but made it clear renewable energy was his priority.
“No one should underestimate our commitment to investing in the technology that is proven … that is all about the future,” he said. “We’re going to keep pushing ahead with the Victorian renewable energy target, with more wind, solar and battery storage.”
Victoria has a renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030.