Three months ago I received a phone call from my father in San Francisco. He was standing outside of Costco, the only place that had back up power following the catastrophic wildfires across California. His entire community had been without power for three days. Torches and portable cookers were sold out and there was a line out the door for pre-cooked chickens. He said, ‘this feels like Cold War Russia, people lining up for their piece of bread’.
Fast forward three months and we’re having eerily similar conversations in Australia. Whole communities blacked out, shopping centres looking like something out of an apocalypse movie and many more scheduled black outs on the horizon. Entire states were urged to actively reduce their energy usage, asking us to forgo our air conditioners and fans in the middle of a heatwave.
If you were miles away from the nearest fire and wondered how cutting your energy usage could possibly have helped – the answer is simple, the fires forced closure of Australia’s ‘energy highways’ which put us at real risk of running out.
Australia’s ageing energy network is highly centralised. Power is generated at a few main points and distributed via huge power lines that run through the bush and into our cities.
Our states are connected via a main ‘power highway’, providing the option for states to share power when needed. During the bushfire crisis, our interstate power highway was closed.
Powerlines are shut down to mitigate against them igniting and subsequently spreading fires. New fires can also start when trees brush up against live lines. When the main line from a centralised source is shut down, countless communities are affected.
This is nothing but a Band-Aid solution to a much wider problem. The decentralisation of Australia’s energy network is urgently needed and the solution lies on our rooftops.
To read the full story on RenewEconomy sister site One Step Off The Grid, click here…