Adam Piggott

Gentleman adventurer

Entire Australian state loses its power grid.

There’s an old joke that goes like this:

What did socialists use before candles?


Yesterday a low pressure system, an early spring front if you will, passed over South Australia. Within a couple of hours the entire state fell off the grid as the power output went from 1500MW to an amazing 5MW. This happened just before the afternoon rush hour which caused complete chaos. Why is this big news? Because over the last few years South Australia has thrown itself into the myth of renewable energy.

South Australia receives 40% of its electricity from wind power. It sounds good except for the fact that when the wind doesn’t blow you don’t get any, and paradoxically, when the wind blows too hard you don’t get any either. Having a daily 40% electricity shortfall is bad enough but this means that the state must purchase the remainder from the neighboring state of Victoria which uses that nasty coal stuff for its power. In fact, the normal shortfall on a good day is sourced from Victoria meaning that when it’s dark and windy/not windy, South Australia relies on Victoria for almost all its power needs.

This has resulted not surprisingly in South Australia having the most expensive electricity prices in the country. In July of this year South Australia experienced a perfect storm of electricity prices due to competing demand from other states which saw their power prices jump to $14,000 per MW, an increase of 1000%. The mining company BHP saw its daily power bill go from $250,000 to $2.5 million in a single day which forced the state government to plead for power from a private power station. Hilarity ensued.

Now only a few months later we have a storm come through which knocked out the two interconnectors which link South Australia to Victoria’s power supply, resulting in the entire state being blacked out for close to 12 hours. In other words, North Korea had more power last night than South Australia.

You’d be thinking that this must have been one hell of a storm, and taken in isolation perhaps it was. But it only packed winds that barely got above 100km per hour. Queensland is hit by tropical cyclones on a regular basis and those winds wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow up there. A few years ago they were hit by cyclone Yasi which packed winds of over 300 km per hour and the power stayed on for most areas.

I watched the ABC news last night, which was an extreme rarity for me, but I wanted to see which way they would spin the story. No mention was made of South Australia’s inept and ill conceived power arrangements. Instead the reporter stood out in the dark and cold in a live feed and gushed at the severity of this “once in a 50 year storm”.

Funny thing though, 50 years ago there is no historical record of the entire state losing its power supply to a storm, and neither 50 years before that. So maybe this was a “once in a 150 year storm”. In fact, no state in Australia has ever lost its entire power supply, not due to this or any other circumstance for that matter. But the crazy thing is that the socialist government of Victoria wants to copy South Australia’s example and phase out all coal power within a few years and relying only on renewables. Just what South Australia will do when that happens is anyone’s guess. Return to the Dark Ages most likely.

Still, at least the entire state of South Australia can feel happy in the knowledge that for a good 12 hours yesterday they led the world in reducing their carbon emissions.


Conservatives are really good at surrendering.


Podcast #20 – The Run Guts Pull Cones episode.


  1. You know what is even funnier? It hasn’t been mentioned by any media in Europe as far as I can see.

  2. “Funny thing though, 50 years ago there is no historical record of the entire state losing its power supply to a storm, and neither 50 years before that. ”

    Really? The entire northeastern United States lost power for about 8 hours in 2003. There was some arcane technical reason for it. Nothing to do with wind farms or storms. The area affected has a population which exceeds that of Australia in toto. Curious that South Australia’s never lost power in toto. The population of South Australia is about that of greater Cleveland, and most people there live in Adelaide or its suburbs.

  3. Southern Australia just doesn’t have the terminology down yet. Here in California we have the “Rolling Blackout.” Imagine people being proud of the fact that they’ve got stylish lingo as opposed to electricity. Yea Verily we are doomed.

    The last power outage we had lasted about 8 hours and my handy dandy, fossil fuel guzzling, CO2 belching, stand-by system kicked in. It never ceases to amaze me how some people think electricity is a sort of magic. I actually had people asking why we had power.

  4. Jim Christian

    Meh, solar and wind are interesting accoutrements, but they’re only a supplement. So, build a nice clean natural gas or oil-burning power grid (they ARE very clean now) and flip the switch back and forth between the two. The entire notion is ridiculous. If there is power, somewhere carbon-based fuels (or rarely now, at the atomic level) are being consumed. At least if you do it for yourself you can be sure it’s clean.

    Good takes on this but not snarky enough. I hate the pro-solar, anti-carbon crowd. THEY are the ultimate “deniers” of the truth of the matter. I just want to bitch-slap the lot of them.

  5. Brian_E

    As far as I’m concerned, a breeder reactor used to make fuel for your nuclear power plant is the only appropriate ‘renewable’ source of energy available to-date. So far – everything else is just too variable (can’t turn up the wind or make the sun brighter on demand). Even hydro-electric is a problem in that weather patterns that feed a watershed can shift over time, causing the reservoir that feeds the turbines to deplete… [and no, I’m not blaming that on CO2 – more likely it’s due to cycles of solar output. Man did not cause the ice-age to end by having too many cooking fires.]

    • Adam

      Nuclear power plant? You don’t say? I wonder which state in Australia has one of the world’s largest deposits of uranium?

      Oh that would be South Australia.

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