Page 573 - Week 02 - Thursday, 16 February 2017

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Several issues led to the supply problems. These have been clearly explained by experts. They are quite complex, and indeed the national electricity market is an extremely complex system. First of all, there was an unprecedented demand for electricity due to the heatwave. We are talking about more demand pressure than ever before. This will only become worse as heatwaves become worse. The nation will need to work out how to deal with this pressure. Importantly, we are not talking about issues with base load power. The problem is with spikes in demand. This is an issue that renewable technologies, such as solar and battery storage, are very effective at responding to. Here in the ACT, in addition to our 100 per cent renewable electricity target, we are rolling out 5,000 batteries across households and businesses: the biggest rollout in the world outside Germany. This will add to system security and make the grid more resilient in the face of system stresses.

Secondly, the national electricity market more broadly needs modernising to improve its resilience and to better integrate and make use of renewable energy technologies. Coal-fired power is on the way out. In fact nine coal-fired power stations have closed since 2012 and more have announced upcoming closures. But the federal government is failing to manage this transition in any kind of orderly way. With its head in the sand, it insists all its eggs go in the coal basket. As a consequence we are seeing failure to make the upgrades to the national energy market that will provide a clean and secure energy future for all Australians.

Thirdly, the national energy market operates under a series of market and regulatory frameworks that, in a perverse outcome, saw blackouts in South Australia even though there was gas generation available on the day. Privately owned generators decided not to operate because gas prices were high and there was not a commercial rationale to do so. Gas prices are high because Australia has several large gas plants that are exporting gas to Asia. The short story is that gas that could provide electricity to Australia is instead being shipped overseas. And meanwhile we have electricity shortfalls. Again, instead of trying to scapegoat renewables, we should be looking at these problematic political decisions about fossil fuels and energy markets.

Renewable energy actually plays a critical role in the supply of electricity and the prevention of blackouts caused by too much demand. In New South Wales it was actually the strong performance of wind and solar that protected the electricity supply. The grid lost more than one gigawatt of capacity of coal-fired power and two big gas-fired generators, Colongra and Tallawarra, stopped generating at the height of the heatwave and supply-demand crisis.

Renewables were there to save the day—and such an irony that is, given what we have seen in the recent discussion. It was renewable technologies like these humble little solar panels, which, in light of recent examples, I think it is important to bring in here, to show that it is not dangerous—

Mrs Dunne: Point of order.

MADAM SPEAKER: Yes, I was just confirming that, Mrs Dunne.

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