Blackouts Ahead, Opportunities Knock

Peter Smith30 May, 2024 2 Min Read
By George, I think he's got it.

Keeping the lights on while pimping Australia’s bedraggled renewable-energy transformation is the job of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). Conflicting objectives? Only if reality gets a foot in the door. Right now, it's bolted shut.

Daniel Westerman, the CEO,  knows how to spin a tale. He wouldn’t be in the job otherwise. All those employed in the service of replacing reliable dense power with intermittent airy power must be immune to hearing the truth and, most particularly, speaking the truth. Taking a leaf from George Orwell’s 1984, Newspeak has become the repurposed indispensable lingua franca of renewable-energy hucksters. You might recall that Newspeak is characterized, among other things, by the inversion of customary meanings designed to allay concern. Thus, for example, threats become "opportunities."

A yearly report called Electricity Statement of Opportunities is issued by AEMO. In reality these so-called opportunities are impending gaps in the delivery of reliable power caused by abandoning coal power. And as the deficiencies of replacing reliable with unreliable power become more and more evident, so the opportunities just grow and grow.

The white paper was issued last August. Since then the "opportunities" have indeed grown. Building transmission infrastructure has fallen further behind schedule, as has the installation of wind turbines and solar panels and batteries. An updated report was rushed out on May 21, accompanied by a press release titled, “Urgent investment needed for electricity reliability.” But fear not Australia. Everything is under control, according to Mr Westerman:

Continued investment in transmission, generation, storage and consumer energy resources… is forecast to lower reliability risks, yet additional opportunities remain for market investments to reduce reliability risks to below the relevant reliability standard over the next ten years.

Additional "opportunities" you see. And Chris Bowen, Australia’s obsessive federal minister for climate change and energy, was in on the act. “This is the process working,” he said, when commenting on this latest warning of potential blackouts ahead. Go figure.

Any rational consideration of the axiomatic proposition that the demand for continuous baseload power cannot be met by a combination of wind, solar and battery power would be Wrongthink. Thus Chris Minns, the premier of New South Wales, has to dig deep to explain his government’s decision to bribe Origin Energy to keep its coal-powered station Eraring going. It’s in order to prevent the transformation to renewables losing public support when the lights go out, he offers.

Cheap coal power, which still provides 60 percent of electricity, is being closed down in Australia without anything of viability being put in its place. It is an unholy mess dressed up in tortured and deceptive language. Graham Lloyd, the usually straight-down-the-line environmental reporter for The Australian, puts it colorfully but perceptively: “The electricity network in Australia – a fossil fuel energy superpower – is increasingly held together with hopes, tissue paper and spit.”

After a career in economics, banking and payment-systems management, Peter Smith now blogs on the topics of the day. He writes for Quadrant, Australia’s leading conservative online site and magazine. He has written Bad Economics, of which, he notes, there is much.


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