Barnaby’s warning: Biggest threat to renewables is lights out in Sydney | RenewEconomy

Barnaby’s warning: Biggest threat to renewables is lights out in Sydney

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Deputy PM says Sydney blackout could be end of road for renewables, although NSW Coalition minister earlier praised role of wind and solar in preventing blackout.

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whiterock solar farm.
Barnaby Joyce, centre, begins construction of White Rock solar farm. Pic supplied by developer Goldwind Australia.

Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce delivered a warning to the renewable energy industry in Australia on Wednesday, declaring that if there was a South Australia-style “black event” in Sydney, it could be the end of the industry.

In a highly anticipated address to the Clean Energy Summit (it was standing room only) Joyce said if the lights went out in Sydney, and people could not use their air conditioning, it would be disastrous.

“It doesn’t mater which political party you are in, you wouldn’t be able to survive….  you have to keep the lights on and air con on in biggest city of Australia,” he said.

Joyce did not make clear how it would be that a state such as NSW, with relatively small amount of renewable energy in its system, might find a way to blame renewables for any blackout that occurred.

Indeed, the NSW Coalition energy minister Don Harwin earlier in the day had praised the performance of renewables for actually keeping the lights on in Sydney earlier this year, something he has done on many other occasions.

NSW did nearly lose power, when two big coal units and two big gas generators failed at the peak of a heat-wave, but was only saved because wind and solar performed as predicted, producing at record amounts, and the Tomago aluminium smelter was fired to reduce power.

Altogether, more than 2GW of fossil fuel capacity went missing that day, and fossil fuel generators in other states also failed in the heatwave that swept Australia in February.

It was not the only time Joyce’s comments put him at odds with others in the Coalition, and in a sign that the Coalition is struggling to get its talking point together, it seems that they cannot even agree if all electrons are equal or not.

“We believe that all electrons are created equal,” he said.  “We are not involved in some religious perspetive of some electrons being more rightous than others.”

We think we know what he means, but his comments jar with those of energy minister Josh Frydenberg who said precisely the opposite last week, when he claimed that not all electrons are equal, because electrons from wind and solar are not dispatchable like electrons from coal, gas and hydro.

Joyce’s appearance generated much interest – a point he conceded when he declared at the start of his speech that his turning up at the summit “may seem innocuous” –  (we’re pretty sure he meant to say “incongruous”) – given his stance on renewable energy and his support for coal.




He said that the Coalition anticipated more wind, solar, pumped hydro and efficient coal fired power, underlining the Conservative support for coal fired power stations, a notion mocked by Harwin earlier in the day.

But Joyce, whose electorate has become a major renewable energy hub thanks to new projects such as the White Rock wind and solar farms, and the Sapphire wind project, did conceded one thing: New England will be a power exporter, predominantly from renewables.”

And at least there some progress on another point: Joyce suggested nuclear as an option “if you really want clean energy” but then conceded: “One inhibiting factor is cost, I believe.” Yep.




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  1. Peter F 3 years ago

    I can’t believe I am saying this. Barnaby is right and the situation is more probable than I have seen anyone admit in public. The conservatives will be able to spin a power failure in Sydney or
    Melbourne on renewables because “reliable coal” has been driven out of
    the market by the threat or actuality of renewables.

    With every year old thermal plants are less reliable, Snowy hydro reserves are well down on last year and back-up from Victoria is less. NSW is the state most likely to have blackouts next summer, followed by Victoria. Demand response programs will make a difference but may well not be enough if we have co-incident long hot spells in Victoria and NSW and the same coal and gas availability as we had last year

    Their line will be “If the greenie scare had not come along high efficiency plants at Loy Yang B & C would have been on line and operating by now as well as equivalent plants in NSW”.
    That will be a very hard line to disprove.

    • MrMauricio 3 years ago

      Barnaby is wrong on facts but confident he can spin a scare to protect the incumbents who sustain him….Interesting that one of them,AGL, says we need to adopt Paris and a CET. (We are still waiting for that $100 roast!!! )Guess he wants to frack those National Parks instead coz we are SOOOO short of gas!!!

    • DevMac 3 years ago

      Just words into the wind.

      If that comes to pass what are their options?

      Build more coal power plants? I doubt it. The only feasible option would be to build more wind and solar as they’re the best bang for buck. Or buy a big battery or two like SA is doing.

      No doubt there will be lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth, but when it comes time to open the wallet economics beats ideology. Especially as it will be at least another 6 months down the track and there will be even more studies and examples to draw on, and gas power prices will have gone up whilst solar, wind, and battery prices will have gone down.

    • George Darroch 3 years ago

      Yup. Don’t forget, they have most of the nation’s media available to them, so facts are not a valid counterargument in such a situation.

      • MaxG 3 years ago

        Spot on… most forget that fact …

    • Mark Roest 3 years ago

      Don’t try to disprove while on the defensive!
      Pre-empt the possibility by putting in sufficient battery storage and demand response to protect against a blackout, and then build on that with battery electric vehicles, some of which are committed to provide V2G while others become carpools.

    • MaxG 3 years ago

      Well, you’d better believe it… you describe exactly what would happen in such a case… they’ve done it at every occasion, and will use it to their advantage when the time comes — this is how rotten these bastards are.

    • solarguy 3 years ago

      Relax and stop with the negative waves baby it’s gonna be real cool.

    • Alastair Leith 3 years ago

      I’m sure Chris Uhlman is working on the talking points for all ABC journos to obligingly quote as we speak.

  2. Jason Van Der Velden 3 years ago

    Well he may be right, dont discount stupid australian voters from having the faintest clue between fact and lnp bullshit!

    • MaxG 3 years ago

      Thanks for putting this out there — I have been the lone voice on this topic…

      • solarguy 3 years ago

        I hear you Max, but let’ see if it happens. There is plenty of new RE being built in NSW before summer kicks in and that should save the day. Stay positive man.

  3. lin 3 years ago

    So blackouts due to coal and gas plants failing in the heat is the fault of renewables??
    ‘Nanas should stick to his knitting, as he clearly knows nothing about electricity.

  4. jm 3 years ago

    I agree that its certainly true that if the lights go out in Sydney, people on Mr Joyce’s side of politics probably will expend some effort to blame renewables, and they will be supported by hangers on in the Murdoch Empire.

  5. solarguy 3 years ago

    Barnaby, mate, take it from me that my home brewed electrons taste better and are cheaper than that dirty commercial shit you want to shove down our throats. And it stores very nicely in my battery bank too. Now take it from me, your very ill and need to go back to the psyche ward for a good rest. You will feel better after your solar powered ECT takes effect.

    • Roger Brown 3 years ago

      Have you fitted any Solar Immersion units for heating water ? They use the kWh’s , that would have gone back into the grid @.06 cents kWh, to heat your water .

  6. Joe 3 years ago

    Gotta luv The Bananaby. At the same time he disses RE he does the sodding for a new Solar Farm.

  7. Jacob 3 years ago

    Typical head buried in the sand behaviour. Australia may be surrounded by water, but we’re not an island. If this fabled Sydney blackout occurs, and the Barnabys of the world are able to slice renewable energy’s remaining hamstring in this country, does he really expect that it will just go away? If in 2020 we’re stuck with some new coal fired grid, the brisk trade in plug’n’play integrated inverter/battery high efficiency solar panels to any Australian business or individual that wants one will be Bunning’s major activity.

  8. neroden 3 years ago

    Is there a reason Tory government officials are not being cared for in mental institutions? They are demonstrating severe mental derangement.

  9. Alastair Leith 3 years ago

    Coal and CCGT are not truly dispatchable either Mr Frydenberg, just saying. But at least he’s learning the new lingo and hopefully will drop his “baseload” lies.

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