Monday, 13 February 2017

Turnbull knew renewables were not the cause of SA blackout the next day

More than 20 electricity transmission towers destroyed by SA storm on Wednesday 28 September 2016
Credit: Debbie Prosser/The Advertiser

On the afternoon of Wednesday 28 September 2016, a once-in-50-year storm, with winds up to 130kph & more than 80,000 lightning strikes, occurred in South Australia. Result for residents, was a state-wide failure of electricity supply.1

At the time, & since, some, mainly on the conservative side of Australian politics, have seen this as an opportunity to attack South Australia’s high proportion of renewable energy (43%).1,2 This despite the evidence available at the time, & the growing body of evidence which has accumulated since, that the blackout was unrelated to the source of the electricity.1,2

These attacks generally take the form of a statement about the storm, & then an attack on renewables. Here is an example from an interview in Launceston, Tasmania on the day following the SA blackout:

“... what we know so far is that there was an extreme weather event that damaged a number of transmission line assets, knocking over towers & lines & that was the immediate cause of the blackout … Now, turning to the issue of renewables. There is no doubt that a heavy reliance on intermittent renewables by which in South Australia we’re mostly talking about wind but there’s also solar, but intermittent renewables does place very different strains & pressures on a grid than reliance on traditional base load power whether it is fossil fuel or of course hydro …” – Malcolm Turnbull

See for yourself:

Now it has been revealed that the Australian Government, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, & his ministers, was informed that renewables were not responsible for the blackout as early as 7:20 on the morning of 29 September. I.e. before the statement in the video above.3

‘Officials told the prime minister’s office early on 29 September the loss of major transmission lines during the storm, which led to a loss of wind power being generated and transmitted at the time, was “followed by the Torrens Island gas power station shutting down shortly afterwards”.’ – The Guardian

“There has been unprecedented damage to the network (ie bigger than any other event in Australia), with 20+ steel transmission towers down in the north of the State due to wind damage (between Adelaide and Port Augusta). The electricity network was unable to cope with such a sudden and large loss of generation at once. AEMO's advice is that the generation mix (ie renewable or fossil fuel) was not to blame for yesterday's events – it was the loss of 1000 MW of power in such a short space of time as transmission lines fell over.” – Sydney Morning Herald

The Guardian – “Malcolm Turnbull was told gas plant shut down before South Australia blackout”

Sydney Morning Herald – “Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and ministers were told wind not to blame for South Australia blackout”

Huffington Post – “The Turnbull Government Can't Stop Blaming Renewables”

1 HitchHiker’s Guide 2 Tech: “Once-in-50-year storm blacks out South Australia – naysayers rush to attack renewables”,

2 Politicians blame renewable energy for South Australia’s freak blackout”,

3 Sydney Morning Herald – “Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and ministers were told wind not to blame for South Australia blackout”,

/ Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ministers were told wind not to blame renewables for South Australia blackout Turnbull government statements blaming last year's South Australian blackout high renewable energy target ignored confidential public service advice was not the cause emails obtained under freedom-of-information rules febrile debate renewable energy versus coal-fired generation raging in Canberra revelation undermine Coalition's energy messaging shatter confidence call for investment sober debate bipartisan policy solutions government denies it ignored the early advice it was the storm which brought down lines ministers canvassed publicly central state's high renewable energy reliance contributed subsequent assessment refer to the state's energy mix complicating factor security of supply advice to the government dated 29 September 2016 day after the whole of SA went black devastating storm suggested problem state's high reliance on wind generation key parts electricity distribution network wrecked during a severe weather event email trail senior official from Malcolm Turnbull department seeking explanation blackout 8.31 evening of the storm next morning outlines subsequent discussions 5am phone hook-up departmental political staff email sent Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's own officials assessment of the blackout including advice Australian Energy Market Operator unprecedented damage network bigger than any other event in Australia 20+ steel transmission towers down State wind damage Adelaide Port Augusta electricity network unable to cope sudden large loss generation capacity AEMO's advice generation mix renewable or fossil fuel was not to blame yesterday's events loss 1000 MW power such a short space of time transmission lines fell over within hours of the calamity Turnbull government capitalising on the blackout suggesting state's unsustainably high quotient wind generation failed to keep working in the conditions Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce chorus from Canberra state Labor government's unrealistic energy policies other senior ministers including Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg major storm major blackout across a whole state South Australia renewable energy target storm capacity to handle it intermittent renewables pose real challenges state Labor governments priorities renewable targets extremely aggressive extremely unrealistic energy security blackout South Australia extreme heat event energy blame game intensified evidence again suggests adequate supply gas turbine generation sitting idle wind contribution fell Labor's spokesman climate change energy Mark Butler hysterical Mr Turnbull playing politics very deep crisis enveloping our energy system /