After the SA power shambles last week, energy security was at the centre of a national debate and I’m little the wiser for it. Energy transmission is possibly one of the most complex technical processes to get your head around, and doesn’t exactly lend itself to a debate conducted in five second grabs over the airwaves. While SA’s increased reliance on renewable energy can’t necessarily be blamed for the SA blackout, a higher mix of fluctuating renewable energy does make electricity distribution more challenging, and does create greater vulnerability for energy security when things go wrong.
In SA, they’ve removed their domestic coal fired power source and rely on Victorian baseload power, which exacerbated this risk. Malcolm Turnbull made the mistake of raising these concerns too soon after the storm, a bit like talking about gun reform five minutes after a mass shooting, and was given both barrels for doing so (pardon the pun). SA’s power might have gone out regardless, but the warning he issued about the renewables fervour was right, even if poorly timed. Renewables are where we need to go, but the risk is that a headlong rush driven by ideology will be counterproductive in the end.