As The Lights Go Out, Blame Game Escalates Over Green Energy ‘Worship’

  • Date: 10/02/17
  • Rosie Lewis, The Australian

The South Australian Labor government has “worshipped at the altar of renewable energy” but failed to devise a plan to generate enough backup electricity to keep the state’s lights on, Malcolm Turnbull has warned.

The Prime Minister ramped up his attack against the state government one day after he blasted Labor’s renewable energy “horror show” by seizing on blackouts in the state to warn of outages across the country under the “insanity of Bill Shorten’s 50 per cent renewables target.

Hitting out at the “extraordinary complacency and reckless negligence” of the South Australian government, Mr Turnbull said Premier Jay Weatherill’s “experiment” with renewable energy had been short sighted because he had neglected think about what to do “when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining” .

“They’ve worshipped at the altar of renewable energy and failed to put in place the backup, whether it is baseload, whether it is gas peaking plants that are available like Pelican Point … or whether it is storage,” Mr Turnbull told 5aa radio.

“They’ve failed to do the work to ensure South Australians can keep the lights and air conditioners on … The Labor government in South Australia has systematically made South Australia vulnerable and you’re seeing it again and again so you now have the least reliable energy and the most expensive energy.”

Mr Turnbull also pointed to the “absurdity” of the state importing the “most emissions intensive electricity generation in Australia” from Victoria, which generates power by burning brown coal, while moving towards a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2025.

“This is a failure of competence … their assumption has been we’ll just suck more power out of Victoria,” he said.

“What they’ve been doing is importing more emissions intensive energy into South Australia, closing a coal-fired power station in South Australia, mothballing gas-fired power stations in South Australia and importing more brown coal energy from Victoria.”

The fresh assault on the state Labor government came as the opposition’s climate change spokesman Mark Butler compared South Australia’s power outage events to “hiccups” in the electricity system.

He also maintained accusations the national energy market operator had failed to predict a shortage of supply in the state.

While Mr Butler conceded Australians wanted politicians to “stop shouting at each other” and work together to fix the energy problems affecting South Australia, he was quick to attack the government for linking the outages to Labor’s 50 per cent renewable energy target.

“What you have really is a government which seeks to jump on every little hiccup and every big hiccup in the electricity system and somehow shoot it home to renewable energy policy when in fact what has happened in South Australia – a very, very bad run in South Australia over several months – on each occasion has had nothing to do with renewable energy,” Mr Butler told ABC radio.

He was forced to back away from those comments, saying he was not “minimising” what had happened in his home state over the last several months and acknowledged there was a “very serious challenge of energy policy”.

“The problem on Wednesday was simply a problem of mathematics or arithmetic. There is no question there is enough supply built here in South Australia of gas generation to cover all of the demand of electricity on Wednesday afternoon,” he said.

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