SA power outages sparks renewables debate

SA power outages sparks renewables debate

SBS World News Radio: The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has come under criticism for allegedly using the South Australian storm and power outage as an excuse to wind back the move towards renewable energy.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says energy security must be a key priority for the nation after a fierce storm left the entire state of South Australia without power.

Mr Turnbull says he wants an overhaul of national renewable energy targets across all states and territories which will be discussed at high-level meetings in the coming weeks.

He says he's also keen to have a broad discussion about the impact of renewable energy on the resilience of the electricity supply in the national electricity grid.

The Prime Minister says a heavy reliance on renewable energy places different strains and pressures on the electricity grid than that of the reliance on traditional base load power.

Malcolm Turnbull says some states and territories have set renewable targets without paying any attention to energy security.

"Whether it is hydro, wind, solar, coal or gas. You want to know that the energy is secure. Now, that has to be the key priority. Now, I regret to say that a number of the state Labor governments have over the years set priorities and renewable targets that are extremely aggressive, extremely unrealistic, and have paid little or no attention to energy security."

Mr Turnbull says targeting lower emissions is very important but it must be consistent with energy security.

Currently Victoria gets 12 per cent of its electricity from renewables, but the target is 40 per cent by 2025.

Queensland currently only gets around 4 per cent of its power generation from renewables, but it has a 50 per cent target by 2030.

At present South Australia gets 41 per cent and it, too, has a 50 per cent target by 2025.

Minister for Climate and Energy Josh Frydenberg says he'll be discussing how best to set a single, national Renewable Energy Target with his state and territory counterparts.

"Let me be absolutely clear, energy security is this government's number one priority. We must keep the lights on. And while we are transitioning to a lower emissions future, we will not compromise on energy security. So we will take all practical measures to ensure that energy security is preserved and protected across the country and we will be asking some very hard questions of the energy operator as to why this event occurred and how we can ensure it not happening again."

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill denies the states' lengthy electricity outage was caused by the its reliance on renewable energy, saying bad weather is to blame.

Mr Weatherill says it's disappointing that some people are prematurely jumping to conclusions about the contributing factors.

"This is a weather event, not a renewable energy event. People start pointing the finger of blame while we're trying to support people respond to essentially what is an emergency. We have workers out there risking their lives to restore these vital assets for South Australians, then we've got politicians deciding to play politics with this, when they pull out their agendas about hating wind farms and renewable energy."

Independent South Australian senator Nick Xenophon doesn't agree and is calling for an inquiry into the state's power supply.

He wants the Australian Energy Market Commission to carry out a robust independent analysis to learn lessons from the incident and find out whether the state's energy mix made it more vulnerable to an outage.

Senator Xenophon says he also wants to know if the government acted on a report which, months ago, warned it of the possibility of a crisis such as has happened.

"I make no apology for requesting that inquiry. They say that I've politicised the interview when in fact having an independent inquiry is the best way to depoliticise the issue. We now know from a report that came out in February this year actually warns what would happen with an uncontrolled event such as this. This report is seven months old yet we need to ask if it was acted upon."

The Greens say Malcolm Turnbull's intervention in the debate is reprehensible and they will be moving for an inquiry into the effects of climate change on infrastructure, and in particular the electricity network.

Energy spokesman Adam Bandt says Mr Turnbull wants to slow down the move to renewable energy rather than hasten it.

"Malcolm Turnbull has chosen to use the severe storms in South Australia as a platform to attack renewable energy. The best way to prevent these kinds of storms and this kind of damage from occurring in the future is to move more quickly to renewable energy and to take urgent action to tackle global warming. For Malcolm Turnbull to use this as an opportunity to urge governments around the country to slow down the uptake of renewable energy is reprehensible and craven."

Labor has accused the government of playing politics at a time of crisis.




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