There was yet another power cut that lasted all morning today in Myponga. There was at least the fourth this week (depending on how you count those short power cuts that last for only a few seconds but reset every clock and computer in the house).
Electricity in South Australia is the most expensive in the country, and amongst the most expensive in the world. That is largely because the previous government dynamited the State’s largest power station, in its insistence that we should live off windmills and solar cells and (for the few seconds that it works when the other renewables fail) Elon Musk’s battery (bought at huge cost to the taxpayer).
For me, this is a relatively minor inconvenience. I have solar panels on the roof and a battery system in the garage, not so much because I believe in these things, but rather because I have no confidence whatsoever that the legacy of the last State government will provide me with economic and reliable electricity from the grid. I also have a UPS for my computer. A combination of these things means that I can get by pretty much okay on the numerous occasions that the policies of the last State government deprive me of mains electricity.
But what of ordinary people (or, as my socialist friends call them, the proletariat)? Not such good news. My setup cost me a lot of money, and most ordinary people cannot afford that. And so these power cuts cause them all real loss of income and convenience.
These power cuts are partly because there are times when the wind doesn’t blow, or blows too much, up or the sun doesn’t shine, and Victoria (which has lots of coal fired power stations) cannot or will not bail this State out. Mr Musk’s battery lasts but a few seconds. Partly also, I suspect, it is because so much money and attention has been focused on the drive to be “green” that the infrastructure – powerlines – is neglected. I have been spoiled, of course. I was brought up in England, where powerlines are typically underground, and thus do not fail whenever there is a storm. Here in Australia almost every town is blighted by ugly overhead power lines. Hey ho. There are plenty of wonderful things about Australia which compensate for that.
In Australia as a whole, coal and gas accounts for about 85% of electricity generation right now. In the long term, of course, that cannot last. As far as gas is concerned, that is particularly daft. Gas is one of the few energy sources around at the moment which is suitable of providing power for remote households and vehicles; it is daft to use it for the grid. In the longer term, power has to be found from other sources: probably nuclear power (Australia is ideally suited for that, but bizarrely is one of the few countries in the world which forbids it) but perhaps something else yet to be developed. History will laugh at this generation for assuming that windmills are the answer.
Meanwhile, I confess to a quiet unease. I am okay, despite all of these power cuts, because of my solar panels and batteries. But what damage does the production and eventual disposal of these things cause to other parts of the world?