Keith Wheeler’s Wheeler’s Wisdom | OPINION, September 11, 2017

WOULD you be happy to sacrifice some of your work hours, or your job, to save electricity?

Would you be happy to take leave at short notice so that your company could temporarily close so that there’s enough electricity to go around?

If the wind is not blowing would you be happy to surrender your night job this Summer to save electricity?

On those hot nights would you be happy to have pubs, clubs and shopping centres close if there is not enough power? Solar produces zero power at night.

As I was writing this column last Thursday morning, I looked at the AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) website.

It showed that peak power demand is around 6am and between about 5pm to 7pm. People turn on lights and heaters then start cooking breakfast. People come home and turn on heaters and ovens. Peak hour trains and trams would add to these spikes.

On last Wednesday at 6pm and last Thursday morning at 6am, wind power generated well below 60 per cent of stated capacity.

The shortfall is made up by hydro-electricity, which can be switched on almost instantly as the need arises, plus baseload coal and gas. However, because environmental policies subsidise sun and wind power, new investment in “baseload” power is not taking place in Australia.

So AEMO has warned that South Australia has a 33 per cent chance of power failures this Summer. With the closure of Hazelwood, Victoria has a 46 per cent chance of failures.

If AGL closes the 2000MW 50 year-old Liddell Power Station in 2022 as planned, NSW will be in the same boat.

Remember SA at the height of their blackouts? Traffic lights failed causing road chaos, trains in Adelaide stopped, trapping passengers between stations. People were stuck in lifts, in the dark. Street lights were out. Dinner couldn't be cooked, and in every home and supermarket refrigerators and freezers ruined food.

Summer is the peak period because of air conditioners. People can die when air-conditioning fails, because many buildings depend on the air-conditioning system for fresh air.

Homes can become so hot that old and fragile people pass away. When mobile phones in SA failed as power to towers failed, even teenagers would have paused to ponder how necessary electricity is to modern day life!

To avoid cutting electricity this Summer, SA has decided on spending $500 million on Elon Musk’s 100MW giant battery. Construction has not started. If built, it will store enough power to supply SA for one hour if all the lights stay on. One hour, and then blackout! At least trains would be able to go to the nearest station.

SA is spending $114 million to buy diesel generators which will supply 220MW of emergency power. (Politically inspired emissions from diesel generators aren’t counted?) Their 220MW contribution is a drop in the ocean.

Is it any wonder that our electricity bills are so high? Alinta Energy offered the ancient Port Augusta coal-fired plant to the SA government for free, or for a $25 million subsidy they would have kept it running until 2018. Reliable 520MW coal-fired power for $25 million, or 220MW of diesel emergency power for $114 million?

Ideology is winning the power battle in Australia. We are the losers, the mugs paying massive electricity bills to support political stupidity.