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With Most Electricity From Renewables, South Australia Has Lowest Utility Cost

The government of South Australia has been a staunch supporter of renewables like wind and solar power. That is paying off for utility customers in SA.

The other day, we had fun bashing Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, who wouldn’t know a fact if it bit him. While the man’s complete ignorance about the approaching climate catastrophe is loathsome, it doesn’t mean others in the country aren’t making progress in their attempt to lower Australia’s overall carbon emissions.

Image: Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica

The government of South Australia has supported renewable energy for years, and its efforts have begun to bear fruit. The latest report on emissions published monthly by the Australia Institute shows that over the past two months, South Australia has derived 65% of its electricity from wind and solar — more than any other state.

Hugh Saddler, the author of the monthly audit and an associate professor at the Australian National University, tells The Guardian that wind and solar power supplied more than 50% of the electricity generated in South Australia for most months over the past two years. “That’s made electricity in SA the cheapest in the national electricity market and dramatically increased reliability.”

According to the website Open NEM, 25.9% of electricity in the five eastern states has been from renewable sources over the past month. There was 100% clean generation in Tasmania, which runs on hydro power, 60% in South Australia, 25% in Victoria, 18% in NSW, and 16% in Queensland.

Overall, utility customers in South Australia will pay about $65 less for their electricity this year thanks to the availability of renewable energy. If you think that seems like a paltry amount, ask yourself this: When was the last time your utility bill went down?

There is a lot of disinformation coming from the national government these days, which is trying to sell the lie that Australia is on pace to meet its commitments made to the global community in the Paris climate accords. Nothing could be further from the truth. The government’s claim involves some accounting legerdemain involving carrying forward credits left over from the original Kyoto agreement, a trick that was roundly criticized by other nations at the recent climate summit in Madrid.

Even at that, the calculation only works if the amount of coal and natural gas Australia exports to other countries is ignored. In other words, the Morrison government is promoting an enormous lie and hoping no one will call them on it. Saddler notes that diesel emissions from the transportation sector are on the rise in Australia and are likely to more than offset any reduction in emissions from renewable energy.

Australia currently has no policies designed to lower emissions from cars and trucks. It also has no domestic auto industry. The result is that global manufacturers export their highest polluting models to Australia, which is one of the few remaining markets in the world where they can be sold. Smart thinking, Australia. You are now the dumping ground for vehicles that can’t meet emissions regulations in other countries.

In 2014, Australia canceled its carbon fee plan and replaced it with what it calls the Emissions Reduction Fund. While it says the fund has succeeded at lowering emissions, that is simply not true, according to Sadler. “The emissions reduction fund, which commenced in 2014, has certainly done much less to reduce emissions than the carbon price did … It is, in fact, hard to see that it has had any significant impact,” his latest audit report says.

“The government’s most recent projections of emissions over the next 10 years indicate very little further reduction. If Australia is to meet its Paris agreement target without using Kyoto carryover credits (for which there is no legal basis), another 13% emissions reduction will be required.”

For many people, their eyes glaze over when such “he said, they said” arguments occur. Suffice to say that renewables provided cheaper energy than traditional methods of generating electricity. As that news gets driven home, the individual Australian states will increase their support for renewables despite, rather than because of, the policies of the federal government. Money talks and bullshit walks, Prime Minister.

 
 
 
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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we heed his advice.

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