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Electricity: here we go again « Previous | |Next »
March 16, 2005

There was another severe power blackout in South Australia on Monday, plunging nearly half the state into chaos and severing a key supply link to Victoria. The blackouts were due to a failure by NRG to fix equipment (generator protection devices) at its Northern Power Station at Port Augusta. The sudden loss of power from the system caused the Victorian interconnector to overload and shut down.

In SA demand for power is outstripping its network capacity and the state's ageing infrastructure will not cope with the higher loads. So it is likely that the infrastructure will fail at the critical times of peak summer demand. South Australia is in a difficult situation.

Firstly, electricity bills have gone up, not down. Householders are paying an average 25 per cent more for their power since Labor took office. A 2003 welfare report found 20 per cent of people asking for help did so primarily because of higher power costs. The report also found people were skipping meals, pawning possessions or showering only every second day because of the extra expense.

Secondly, SA has neither the base-load generating capacity, nor sufficiently robust transmission links through which to draw down excess capacity from the east-coast states, to meet its demand.

This event and situation highlights the growing problems in infrastructure investment and the national electricity grid. The state government is underinvesting in infrastructure: it is not even investing in new transmission infrastructure to enable the shift to power generatiuon from renewables.

The money is continuing to go to producing budget surpluses and repaying debt, even though a modern and efficient infrastructure is essential to productivity and economic growth. Failure to do this puts the brakes on economic growth.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:07 AM | | Comments (0)