Electricity Market Controls “Back In The Hands Of South Australians”

Electricity market in South Australia

SA Back In The Driver’s Seat On Electricity (Somewhat) – Image:  Wongm, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The South Australian Government has announced it now has powers over the electricity market not seen since the privatisation of ETSA back in 1999.

The new laws, proclaimed  by South Australia’s Governor on Wednesday, enable SA’s Energy Minister to direct electricity generators to provide adequate supply in situations of a shortfall.

Previously, such a directive required meeting of the Executive Council and the Governor of South Australia to give the nod in order to declare a State of Emergency.

While the powers are still for use as an option of last resort, the legislative changes will apparently allow action to be taken within minutes rather than hours.

Earlier this year, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill declared the state was as mad as hell and not going to take it any more after 90,000 South Australians lost power in February due to a load-shedding event.

As SQ blogger Ronald Brakels pointed out earlier this week in his post on SA’s “energy crisis”:

“This wasn’t because there wasn’t enough generating capacity to meet demand, it was because Engie decided not to turn on 250 megawatts of idle gas generating capacity it had sitting around doing nothing and because AGL decided the middle of a heatwave was a good time to withdraw 120 megawatts of gas capacity for maintenance.”

It was an event that furthered the SA government’s resolve to “go it alone”, resulting in the release of a $550 million Energy Plan; an element of which involved local powers over the National Electricity Market (NEM).

“These new laws are a crucial component of our plan to protect South Australians from a failing National Electricity Market,” said Acting Energy Minister Peter Malinauskas yesterday.

“Along with our new gas-fired generator, the construction of Australia’s largest grid-connected battery and incentives designed to drive the production of more gas to be supplied to local generators, these laws will allow South Australians to take charge of their energy future.”

Solar Power – The Other Energy Security

There was an important element missing from the Acting Minister’s statement. As Ronald also pointed out on Wednesday, rooftop solar enhances energy security – and there’s more good news on that front in South Australia.

It’s been revealed the state’s love affair with solar panels is continuing to blossom and 32% of dwellings now have solar power systems.

Figures released by the Australian Photovoltaic Institute indicate South Australia has recaptured the national lead in this regard, edging ahead of Queensland’s 31%. Queensland’s 1.72GW of rooftop solar still leads the states in terms of overall capacity (<100kW systems) ; with SA sitting on (more accurately, under) 727MW.

Australia-wide, total solar power capacity has reached 6GW and is expected to double over the next few years.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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