Malcolm Turnbull

Political storm over SA blackout intensifies at COAG

Wind power Source: Getty images

States and territory governments are being attacked for setting unrealistic renewable energy targets with the Turnbull Government wanting targets to be "harmonised".

The political storm over South Australia's blackout has intensified with the Turnbull Government attacking state and territory governments for setting ambitious renewable energy targets. 

South Australia plunged into darkness last week after a ferocious storm, and Federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg has blamed the states reliance on wind power. 

"It was a big experiment that failed because the lights went out," Minister Josh Frydenberg said. 

A massive storm last week caused catastrophic failure to the southern states energy network, run by nearly 40 per cent wind power. 

Minister for Resources Josh Frydenberg
The energy minister has stepped back from linking SA's renewable energy program to the state's power failure.

But the South Australian Government said the attacks on renewable energy are unwarranted. 

"It wasn't the intermittent nature of wind energy or renewable energy that caused the system black. What it was was a system glitch, a software error in some of the wind farms," the states Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said. 

Energy ministers from across the country met in Melbourne on Friday for an emergency COAG meeting to discuss how to better secure the nation's grid. 

The Federal Government attended the meeting with a request, calling on states to back down on their renewable energy targets - which range from 40 to 100 per cent in Labor states and territories. 

"We'd like to see those targets more harmonised with the Commonwealth because ultimately what we want to see is more renewable energy and lower emissions but not at the expense at the affordability of electricity," Energy Minister Frydenberg said. 

Adding that state and territory emission reduction targets shouldn't jeopardise the "stability" of the country's energy system.

"I made that point to state ministers today."

But State and Territory energy ministers responded after the council meeting by slamming the Turnbull Government for its own renewable target of 23.5 per cent by 2020. 

"We have a state-based target because the Federal Government under Malcolm Turnbull don't have a policy after 2020," Queensland's Energy Minister Mark Bailey said. 

Victorian's Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosie echoed those sentiments calling on the Commonwealth to show "national leadership" on the issue.  

"It's really going to come down to the Federal Government demonstrating some national leadership." - Victorian Energy Minister, Lily D'Ambrosie 

After a two-hour minister-only breakfast meeting it was agreed a review will be conducted, chaired by the Commonwealth's Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, aided by two others yet to be appointed. 

"A preliminary report will be provided to energy ministers ahead of the COAG leaders meeting in December with a final report being concluded early next year," Minister Frydenberg said. 

"Today's meeting was a real breakthrough." - Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg 

Professor Ken Baldwin from the ANU's Energy Change Institute said South Australia's recent extreme weather caused transmission lines to fall over and renewable energy didn't play a part, however, he did welcome the review.  

"We now have a new set of imperatives that mean we have to address all the issues surrounding climate change and the security of the grid in terms of more extreme climactic events," he said. 

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