The Australian government will confront the states over the danger of statewide blackouts at an urgent meeting tomorrow to respond to the outage across South Australia last week, amid a furious political fight over whether wind farms helped cause the failure.
The states are being warned that their growing use of renewable energy will make their power networks more vulnerable to outages, leaving Australians at risk of blackouts from any repeat of last week’s ferocious storm.
The dispute over wind and solar power hardened yesterday after the energy market operator blamed the South Australian blackout on power failures along three major transmission lines and a subsequent drop in generation at six wind farms, leading to an overload at the crucial interconnector supplying power from Victoria.
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg told The Australian that tomorrow’s meeting with the states would put statewide blackouts on the agenda, with the Australian Energy Market Operator briefing ministers on its findings on the South Australian crisis and the risks for other states.
“Events in South Australia do show an urgent need to look at the reliability and stability of the energy system,’’ he said. “The risk of statewide blackouts in other states will be part of the questions ministers will ask of AEMO.”
Stepping up pressure on the states to overhaul their renewable energy targets in favour of a national approach, Mr Frydenberg warned that intermittent power — such as from wind farms and solar — left customers at risk of further outages.
“It’s undeniable that the growing use of intermittent power has an impact on the system, leaving the states more vulnerable to power outages,” he said.
“Wind and solar don’t generate a consistent quantity of power, increasing the reliance on interconnectors.
“It must also be said that wind and solar don’t generate a consistent quality of power like hydro, coal and gas, which are able to help the grid cope with sudden shocks.”
Malcolm Turnbull savaged South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill yesterday, saying he had failed to “keep the lights on” in South Australia. The comments came after the AEMO report revealed the loss of wind power before last week’s blackout contributed to the state demanding so much baseload power from Victoria that its main interconnector overloaded and shut down.
AEMO confirmed yesterday that 10 wind farms in South Australia had been ordered to limit generation on an ongoing basis, as it was concerned a failure, or trip, of multiple generators could re-occur following another disruption to the unstable grid.