For all the uncertainty cast by unprecedented global pandemics and unpredictable election results, some things never change. You can rely, for example, on the National Party of Australia to remain stubbornly and inexplicably opposed to renewable energy (give or take a few enlightened young MPs). And you can set your watch by LNP elder Barnaby Joyce’s inflammatory and unsubstantiated claims that renewable energy is behind every glitch in the national electricity market.
Cue a Facebook post from Joyce on Tuesday, see below, asking renewable energy advocate Zali Steggall – who is also the independent member for Warringah, having ousted the climate-denying former PM Tony Abbott from the Sydney seat on a campaign for strong climate action – to please explain why there were power outages in the northern beaches region.
“All this heat, all this sun. Zali, what happened to renewable power in Manly today? Why did the power go out?” Barnaby asks, before noting that he’s not especially bothered by the answer.
“I don’t have to win this argument the facts are doing it for me,” he writes. “The chickens come home to roost.”
But in true Barnaby style, actual “facts” in his outbursts about renewables are few and far between. If he had asked poles and wires company Ausgrid about the outages, rather than Steggall, he might have learned – as RenewEconomy did – that the outages mentioned in his FB post were all classed as “unforeseen cable faults,” which were corrected relatively quickly.
Cable faults mean that no matter the supply source, the power can’t get to its destination, until the fault is fixed and power restored. It has nothing to do with the power generation source, be it solar, wind or Hunter Valley black coal.
On the contrary, an Ausgrid spokesperson told RenewEconomy that there was “no pressure on the grid yesterday” despite all that heat and all that sun – or even, because of it, and the power generation contributions of rooftop and large-scale solar PV.
“There were no significant demand issues yesterday,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Thursday. “The total demand on the Ausgrid network peaked at 3600MW. For context, a very high demand day is over 5,500MW. We last saw that level in Feb 2011.”
For her part, Steggall was too busy arguing the case for her proposed Climate Change Bill to respond directly to Barnaby’s latest anti-renewables grenade. But in a media release on Thursday morning, she noted that the federal Coalition was “once again hampered by internal party politics and its climate denying members.
“The world is heading to Net Zero by 2050 led by US President Joe Biden. It’s time Prime Minister Scott Morrison sets Australia on the right path,” Steggall said.
But that probably won’t happen, thanks to Joyce and all the National Party MPs still pushing for new coal-fired power stations, and getting plenty of space to amplify those claims in Murdoch media.
It’s why Morrison declares in one breath that the political debate on climate is over, and then declares in another breath that Australia will continue to ignore the science and won’t ramp up its emissions reduction targets. That’s because, within Australia’s federal government, the political debate is a long way from over.