Australian Grid Hits 50% Renewables For First Time

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It only lasted for 10 minutes, but renewables provided 50.2% of the electricity available on Australia’s National Energy Market in the first week of November. The NEM supplies electricity to Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania. The Northern Territories and Western Australia have their own energy grids. “We will start to see this happening more frequently. It was just a snapshot in time, but it’s indicative of an underlying trend in the system,” Dylan McConnell of the University of Melbourne’s Climate and Energy College tells The Guardian.

Tesla Virtual Power Plant South Australia
Image credit: Government of South Australia

The milestone was spotted using an online tool developed by McConnell called OpenNEM that monitors the grid in real time using data from the Australian Energy Market Operator. During those 10 minutes, solar power led the way, providing 32.5% of the available electricity. Wind was next at 15.7%, and hydro provided 1.9%. There are more than 2 million small rooftop solar systems in those 5 Australian states and they provided 72% of the solar power, while solar power plants contributed the other 28%.

Kane Thornton, chief executive of Australia’s Clean Energy Council, says “It is a fantastic achievement to have more than half of the National Electricity Market powered by renewable energy, and it’s worth celebrating. A decade from now it will be completely normal as more renewable energy and storage projects are built to replace retiring coal-fired power stations. At the beginning of the decade South Australia’s power system ran on more than 50 per cent wind and solar for the first time, but today it happens all the time. Renewables and storage can do everything our old coal plants can do, just cheaper, cleaner and more reliably.”

Battery Storage Will Make The Difference

“What we’ll see in Australia eventually is getting to 100 per cent [renewable supply] at certain times, but that excess of power won’t be able to be exported anywhere — it will have to be stored,” industry analyst Giles Parkinson tells The Rising. “We’ve been locked in a decades old paradigm of coal providing base-load [energy] and gas providing the peak load,” he says, adding that the federal government should be proactive in providing incentive programs for battery storage. “We really need a plan to be put into place and, right now, we’re not seeing that from any government, even though some of the state governments are calling out for it.”

Australian energy company AGL announced recently it has signed an agreement with the Maoneng Group to supply four 50MW/100MWh batteries in New South Wales. They will enter service in 2023 and store enough electricity to supply the needs of 30,000 homes. CEO Brett Redman says, “This is the dawn of the battery age and AGL is proud to lead the way. Australia’s energy market is undergoing significant changes and large scale batteries like these will be pivotal in providing firming capacity in the shift between baseload power and renewables.”

Stupidity In High Places

Some of you may be familiar with an Australian TV series Rake, in which bumbling solicitor Cleaver Green rises inexorably to be Prime Minister through a series hilarious misadvantures. But truth is stranger than fiction, as demonstrated by the rise of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, as big a jackass as you are likely to meet, save for the Preening Potentate of Pennsylvania Avenue himself. According to a report by the Washington Post, he warned an audience last week about a “new breed of radical activism” that was “apocalyptic in tone.” To hell with free speech and what the people want, Morrison roared. According to The Guardian, he plans to propose legislation that will outlaw boycott campaigns that he argued could hurt the country’s mining industry.

Morrison says his government is looking at “serious mechanisms that can successfully outlaw these indulgent and selfish practices that threaten the livelihoods of fellow Australians. The right to protest does not mean there is an unlimited license to disrupt people’s lives and disrespect your fellow Australians.” Businesses linked to climate change are being refused banking, insurance, and consulting services, Morrison said, due to the demands of activists. “I think some of our largest corporations should listen to and engage to their quiet shareholders, not just the noisy ones,” he said, echoing the dark mutterings of Tricky Dick Nixon and his appeal to the so-called “silent majority.”

“I hear a lot about progressivism at the moment,” Morrison said in his speech. The word “gives you a warm glow.” Then he added, “I will tell you what it means. Those who claim the title want to tell you where to live, what job you can have, what you can say and what you can think — and tax you more for the privilege of all of those instructions that are directed to you.”

Human rights groups were outraged by Morrison’s remarks. “From ending slavery to stopping apartheid, boycott campaigns have played a critical role in achieving many social advances that we now take for granted,” Hugh de Kretser, executive director of the Human Rights Law Center, said in a statement.

Morrison styles himself as an evangelical Christian, but appears to have skipped over the parts of the New Testament that relate to the teachings of Jesus. Nowhere in that volume does the person for whom Christianity is named advocate for destroying the Earth. All the chest thumping and pontificating in the world cannot disguise the fact that Jesus taught us love one another, not corporations whose business model calls for raping and pillaging the land to the point where every creature on Earth dies.

What Morrison is champion of is unbridled capitalism that has no objective other than the accumulation of money regardless of morality, ethics, or being a good steward of the Earth. In Morrison’s bizarre world, the steam shovels will still be digging coal as the waves close over Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and every other major Australian city. How such a fool can garner wide spread political support is one of life’s great mysteries.  All things considered, Australia would be better off being governed by the bumptious Cleaver Green than the ridiculous Scott Morrison.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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