Why is South Australia’s solar energy industry struggling?
An energy system that relies on sunlight, wind and other natural resources could be “at the end of the road” as Australia’s sun and wind power systems get more efficient and more reliable, according to energy analysts.
The problem with South Australia is that its solar energy is so unreliable that its grid can’t keep up with demand, writes James Dyson.
South Australia’s energy generation has gone through a major overhaul since the state was granted an emissions trading scheme last year.
It’s not just the state’s renewable energy that is struggling with a system that’s only about 30 per cent efficient.
The system also relies on coal and gas.
The coal-fired power plant on the outskirts of Adelaide has an output of 2,000 megawatts.
This power plant produces electricity to serve around 70,000 homes.
At the moment, the system produces around 10 per cent of South Australias electricity needs.
So while it’s a good thing that South Australia got an emissions-trading scheme, the fact is that it’s not the solution to South Australia´s energy problems.
“South Australia is the only state in the world that doesn’t have an emissions market, which means they can’t really go on a transition to renewables, and there are a number of reasons why that is,” said Richard Leckie, an energy expert at the Commonwealth Bank.
He told BBC News that South Australians need to look at alternatives to the coal-based power system and also look to the use of natural gas.
“We need to be looking at different options, because coal is going to remain in the market and natural gas is going and will be, and that’s why South Australia has a lot of issues,” he said.
There’s no doubt that South Australian politicians are keen to sell the state on the benefits of solar power, particularly with a new federal election coming up.
But a report released by the Energy Efficiency Council of South Australian says the state´s renewable energy system could be on the brink of collapse.
It says South Australia could be the only place in Australia where a full transition to clean energy is not possible.
According to the report, the average system needs a total of around 30 per day to meet demand and maintain electricity supply.
That’s a lot less than the current capacity of South Australians power system, which is only 10 per day.
In total, South Australia needs to build a system of 3,500 megawatts of renewable energy by 2050, compared to 1,800 megawatts currently in place.
South Australia currently has about a 20 per cent electricity demand reduction.
By 2050, it would need to reduce its electricity demand by 60 per cent.
Energy experts are sceptical that South Ayr can deliver on this promise.
“[The system] is not going to meet all the demands that South Aus needs to meet in the future,” said Mr Leckies.
Instead, South Ayer must look at a different approach to renewable energy and find ways to keep it in the black.
And that could include exploring a coal-free strategy for the future, or investing in wind and solar energy technologies, he said, but he doesn’t believe South Ayrs new grid can cope with all of the changes that could come with the end to the emissions trading.
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