Last Saturday afternoon, lighting strikes in Australia temporarily interrupted transmission lines that interconnect the electrical grids in the eastern part of the country. For a time, the grids in Queensland and South Australia were turned into energy islands, cut off from the national grid infrastructure. The Australian Energy Market Operator termed the incident a “power system emergency.”
Customers in New South Wales and Victoria experienced widespread power outages while those in in Queensland and South Australia noticed little more than a momentary flicker of their lights. In Queensland, that happy circumstance was due to an abundance of renewable energy available to meet that state’s energy needs. Some of the excess was being shared with NSW before the transmission line between the two was put out of commission.
South Australia was largely unaffected, thanks to the Hornsdale Power Reserve, known affectionately in SA as the “Tesla Big Battery.” It kicked in immediately to add 84 MW of power to the state’s electrical grid and stabilize the frequency of the local grid, which was disturbed when the link to neighboring Victoria was disrupted.
The success of the “Big Battery” was a silent rebuke to new Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a Donald Trump wannabe who channeled US senator James Inhofe when he brought a lump of coal onto the floor of parliament earlier this year to demonstrate his love of coal. In July, Morrison uttered these sage words to demonstrate his vast storehouse of knowledge about energy policies:
“I mean, honestly, by all means have the world’s biggest battery, have the world’s biggest banana, have the world’s biggest prawn like we have on the roadside around the country, but that is not solving the problem.” The Big Banana is an amusement park located in Coffs Harbor in northern NSW.
Last year, Morrison went out of his way to mock the Tesla battery installation in South Australia. “I don’t care if it’s wind, coal, the world’s biggest battery, but you’ve got to measure it on its contribution, and it doesn’t measure up to a big solution. 30,000 SA households could not get through watching one episode of Australia’s Ninja Warrior with this big battery. So let’s not pretend it is a solution.”
As RenewEconomy so cogently points out, “The Tesla big battery, also known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve, was able to play a key role in helping keep the grid stable and the lights on in South Australia on Saturday, in its biggest threat since the 2016 blackout. It did solve a problem. Morrison’s Big Banana, on the other hand, wasn’t able to lift a finger to help customers in NSW. Such a shame they didn’t have a battery to help them.” It also noted that people in SA were able to watch their tellies uninterrupted by the crisis.
The outage occurred on the first day of Morrison’s term in office after ousting Malcolm Turnbull last week. Compounding the ignorance of his administration, Matt Canavan, the country’s new resources minister, told The Australian after the event, “The system has heightened vulnerability because of the reliance on interstate and unreliable power. More investment in coal, gas or hydro would firm up the system, create more supply and bring down prices.”
That’s a lie. When the interstate transmission lines went down, NSW was forced to shed 724 MW of load and Victoria 280 MW. In South Australia, no load was shed. None. As in, not any. AEMO said after the event the outages had nothing to do with any loss of generation. In fact, no generator — whether coal, gas, wind or solar — tripped off as a result of the transmission failure. So, sorry, Matt Canavan — no amount of extra generating capability would have helped the situation.
Morrison has appointed Angus Taylor, a fierce critic of renewable energy policies, as his new energy minister, leading the Australian Clean Energy Council to declare that is is now up to the individual states to move the renewable energy revolution forward with no expectation of assistance from the federal government, according to a report by Energy Matters.
If you think it is merely a coincidence that Australia and the US are both now hostages to fossil fuel advocates, you are simply not paying attention. Despite some recent efforts to greenwash themselves, the fossil fuel interests are busy committing crimes against humanity in the background while they continue to stuff their pockets with oil-soaked cash and coal-polished coins, and then use some of that money to buy influence at the highest levels.