Heatwave conditions in the USA and wildfires in California have recently precipitated a state of emergency with rolling power blackouts. California’s conventional power capacity has been run down in recent years while they promoted wind and solar generation and import up to 30% of their power from other states.

As the other states run down their conventional power resources under the influence of policies to promote the "green transition", Californians are now being subjected to demand management.  This means urgent instructions to domestic and industrial power users to reduce their consumption of "non-essential" power and constrain heavy industrial processes like smelters to reduce the risk of blackouts. Sometimes this is not enough and local blackouts occur anyway. 

California will not go completely black because they have extension cords running into several adjacent states.

In Australia we cannot turn to neighbours for power when we are short. This means we will have to maintain 100% of our conventional power sources to avoid outages whenever the wind is low and the sun doesn’t shine.

This applies especially at dinner time when the demand for power peaks. The NemWatch widget shows that hot dinners depend very much on conventional power supplies. On the evening of Thursday 23 July the contribution from the wind (green) was very small in South Australia and almost invisible in Victoria. Wind power was providing less than 3% of the demand across the whole of SE Australia.

23 July 7.30pm Vic low

The picture tells the story: RE is not sustainable with existing storage technology, as explained in the “four icebergs” briefing note.

The Federal Opposition and most of the states have ambitious targets for the penetration of RE into the grid. As explained in the briefing note, this cannot possibly work in the near future but the Labor Environmental Action Network has called for an end to gas to decarbonize the power supply! This is not good news for all the people who use gas for hot water, cooking and heating.

The Labor leadership has a golden opportunity to serve the nation by adopting a bipartisan stance with the Coalition to keep Liddell power station in service until there is an adequate substitute to provide base load power. Depending on the sun and wind to provide base load is suicidal in our island situation.

PS. A fifth “iceberg” is the environmental damage inflicted by the wind, solar and biomass industries that are being developed to decarbonise the power supply.