Roofs were ripped off homes, transport came to a halt and hospitals were forced into emergency mode as a once-in-a-generation mega storm hit the state. The violent weather took down 22 huge and heavy transmission towers and all power generation was shut down for safety.
Unbelievably, while South Australians were trying to cope with this disaster, a bunch of opportunistic politicians lined up to push an anti-renewables barrow. One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon all sought to blame renewable energy for the blackout. This irresponsible attack was a new low in what’s been a concerted effort to demonise wind energy.
None of the three were able to produce any evidence to support their claims. The simple fact is that wind power played no part in the system blackout. An extreme shock like this one would cripple any electricity grid no matter what type of power it was shifting around - wind, coal or gas.
At the time of the blackout, half of South Australia’s energy needs were being met by wind power. Wind played a key role in getting the lights back on. The Snowtown wind farm, north of Adelaide, propped up the state's power supply as gas power stations were being fired up.
The political debate over the role of renewable energy in Australia will no doubt continue once the storm damage is cleaned up. We must ensure it’s based on facts. Renewable energy generation is a solution to climate change which will only worsen extreme weather events like the South Australian storm.
Let’s stop wasting time by blaming the solution, and start fixing the problem.
Andrew Bray is the national coordinator of the Australian Wind Alliance.