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South Australia's great success changing toward renewable energy

South Australia has gone far further far more quickly than any other Australian state in changing from dirty, greenhouse polluting coal-fired power toward clean renewables in the early twenty-first century.

This transition has gone very smoothly, and while several major power outages that were caused by storms have been, without justification, blamed on the state's renewable energy, South Australians have suffered no inconvenience from the transition. Also, SA has had lower electricity price rises than those in the coal-powered eastern mainland states.

In a world in which the need for swift transition to renewable energy is becoming increasingly obvious and urgent South Australians have a right to be very proud of this wonderful achievement.

This page was written 2017/09/09, modified 2018/01/07
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com (David K. Clarke) – ©
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The writer of this page lives in South Australia among the highest concentration of wind farms in the nation.

A winery in the Clare Valley
Wineries have been early adopters of solar PV
Snowtown Wind Farm
Wind farm
The most productive wind farm in Australia in 2017
South Australia went from near zero renewable energy to more than 50% between 2003 and 2017. This is a remarkable achievement and it was done with very few problems along the way. (Supporters of coal and detractors of renewables – generally the same people – have dishonestly claimed that there have been problems; this claim is dealt with below.)

South Australia was doing far more toward reducing its greenhouse emissions than any other Australian state. The need for serious action on climate change was at the time of writing being demonstrated by Hurricane Harvey devastating big areas of Texas, record monsoonal flooding in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, record wildfires in Canada and western USA and Hurricane Irma producing unprecedented damage in the Caribbean and Florida.

In 2017 all well informed, open minded people of at least moderate intelligent accept the reality of anthropogenic climate change, and with record storms, floods and wildfires and almost every year being warmer than the previous the urgency of action in reducing greenhouse emissions is equally obvious. If other Australian states and other nations were to adopt renewables as enthusiastically as South Australians have done, and continue to do, future generations – our children and our grandchildren – would be able to look forward to a brighter future than they seem to be condemned to at present.

It would be well worth paying higher prices for clean energy, but the fact is that renewable energy is similar in cost to filthy coal-fired energy.

Power prices have risen less than in coal-powered states

South Australia had power prices that were higher than most other states before the state's wind farms were built. There was proportionally less increase in power prices in SA in the period 2006 to 2016, during which most of the state's wind farms were built, than in the eastern mainland states that rely heavily on coal power. (Research by Ben Phillips, ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, published figures showing that the increases in electricity expenditure between 2006-2016 were 109%, 119%, 136% and 87% for NSW, Victoria, Queensland and SA respectively.)

Another SA energy first

Coincidentally, only a day after I wrote this page, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) recorded that South Australia's highly successful adoption of rooftop solar power had resulted in record low power demand from the grid about 2pm on 2017/09/10. SA's rooftop solar had already shifted the time of lowest demand from the night to the middle of the day.

SA leading the nation

Renewables share
Renewables share
Graph from Ozlabs; data sourced from AREMI and APVI
Emissions intensity
Graph from Ozlabs; data sourced from AREMI and APVI
I first became aware of the availability of graphs such as those on the right 2017/09/19, only ten days after starting this page, through a Renew Economy posting. I downloaded the two graphs from Ozlabs on the same day.

They provide yet more evidence that South Australia's adoption of renewable energy has been a huge success.

The first graph, renewables share, shows that SA, which had practically no renewable energy 14 years earlier, had a very substantial proportion in September 2017.

Tasmania had by far the lowest emissions due to its high level of hydro-power, which had been in place for twenty or more years.

Victoria had the highest emissions because it relied on particularly polluting brown coal, while NSW and Queensland burned black coal.

The fact that Queensland had virtually no wind power but a moderate amount of solar power was obvious in the daily peak in renewables share and the daily trough in emissions.

The second graph, emissions intensity, shows that South Australia, through its adoption of renewable energy, had power-sector emissions at a lower level than any other mainland state.

South Australia has moved far more in reducing its emissions, in a world in which reducing emissions is becoming almost daily more obviously needed, than any other Australian state.

Other states, and Australia as a whole, should be using SA as an outstanding example of what could be done and what should be done in this world that is increasingly being damaged by climate change.

The graphs have been made available, and self-funded, by Ben Elliston. Thank you Ben.

The lies of the detractors

Power transmission line downed due to the storms of September 2016
Transmission lines down
The photo was taken near Blyth, Mid-North South Australia on 2016/10/06.
The lying opponents of renewable energy (among the vocal opponents there seems to be no other kind) have blamed all sorts of problems on South Australia's renewable energy. I hold that, considering the urgency of acting on climate change, to knowingly lie in support of fossil fuels and dishonestly slander renewable energy is a crime against humanity.

There was a state-wide blackout in SA in September 2016. It was caused by exceptional storm-force winds, and had nothing at all to do with the intermittency of wind and solar power. Three of the state's four major power transmission lines to the north of Adelaide were downed by the winds. The section flattened shown in the photo on the right was within a few kilometres of my place at Armagh. Yet the opponents of renewable energy blamed the blackout on renewable energy.

There were further storm-caused blackouts in December 2016. This time the major transmission lines were not damaged, but over 300 power distribution lines were damaged, largely by falling trees. I am over seventy years old and don't recall ever seeing so many trees knocked down by one storm. In twenty years no Callitris tree on my property had been blown down by storm winds; in this storm alone four were flattened in three different areas. Again, renewable energy opponents blamed the blackouts on South Australia's wind and solar power.

The truth is that while there are certainly challenges in adopting high percentages of renewable energy, South Australia has had no serious problems that could be ascribed to the intermittency of wind or solar power and, with the exception of blackouts that were caused by storms, a very smooth transition from near zero to 50% renewables.

Of course climate change has been shown by scientists to make storms more violent than they would otherwise be, so if anyone should be blamed for SA's power blackouts it should be those who oppose taking serious action to reduce climate change.

In August 2017 Prime Minister Turnbull accused the South Australian government of "ideology and idiocy" for their support for renewable energy. Since the state government's support for renewable energy is no more than any reasonable person would believe is justified and the state's adoption of renewable energy has been a great success, I accuse PM Turnbull of ideology, idiocy and criminal behaviour in his support of coal and opposition to renewable energy to the detriment of the planet and all future generations.

Related pages

On this site

Base load power: the facts
Mid-North South Australia, leading the nation in renewable energy
Northern SA's renewables
How should Australia generate its electricity?
Impressive renewable energy developments in Australia
Wind power in Australia
Pumped hydro energy storage
Glossary of technical terms relating to wind power

Climate change
Climate change, natural disasters and what we should be doing
Major threatened disasters compared
Greatest crime in history
The end of coal
The Turnbull Australian Government

On the Internet

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction report: The human cost of weather-related disasters 1995-2015.
Renew Economy; AGL ridicules Coalition request to keep Liddell [coal-fired power station] open extra 5 years.
The Conversation; Why coal-fired power stations need to shut on health grounds, David Shearman, 2016/11/28.
The Uninhabitable Earth, Annotated Edition, by David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine.

The big three Australian power generators see no future in coal

AGL's statement on the Liddell closure.
Energy Australia boss says there are much better options than keeping the old Liddell coal-fired power station running for a few more years.
Origin Energy boss regects coal

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