The State election underway in South Australia is underlining the Government’s intention to continue to “lead the race” on renewable energy deployment.
The question is – a race to what end?
During the week, SA became the first Australian government to adopt a 75% renewable energy target – a move labelled “complete madness” by Federal Minister Josh Frydenberg.
At its current levels – about 45% – SA has had serious electricity reliability issues.
It will need to rapidly deploy its planned investment in gas-fired electricity if it is to avoid future damages to businesses big and small and potentially dangerous inconvenience to the frail and elderly.
More gas-fired power would also continue the current downward trend on electricity prices.
Major SA employers including BHP, Arrium, Nyrstar and Oz Minerals have suffered big losses during power outages – as much as $367 million in the whole-of-State blackout alone in late 2016.
Hundreds of small businesses were also hit. In response, the Government urged them to buy diesel generators to provide back-up and protection from the threat of power outages.
In Victoria, which has a 50% renewable target, but nothing like the SA renewable penetration, blackouts have cost taxpayers more than $50 million in the past month.
Both NSW and Victoria have only staved off major blackouts this summer because of emergency measures to cut power usage – an expensive and economically regressive step.
In Europe, North America and Asia, Governments are increasing their use of natural gas to give them power reliability and lower carbon emissions.
Australia needs to do the same – and quickly.