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Here we go again: Busting myths and misinformation on the Victorian blackouts

Storms caused one of the largest outage events in Victoria’s history last week, resulting in half a million people going without power. Almost as damaging is the predictable political debate and the swift publication of mis (and dis) information about the role renewables played in the lights going out – spoiler alert: it didn’t.

RE-Alliance has been working for more than a decade to advocate for an energy transition that provides prosperity for regional Australians. We want to support communities to navigate the complexities of big shifts like the one we’re making to an energy supply powered by renewables.

We know that we need a modern electricity system that’s powered by the good stuff – renewable energy like solar and wind, backed by storage and upgraded transmission. We need this so that all Australians can have access to reliable, clean and affordable power. What we don’t need are attacks on climate solutions as these types of climate-driven events become more frequent.

These are three key themes that we observed this week.

1. Renewables and reliability

No amount of backup – including nuclear (if it existed) – could have stopped what happened during Victoria’s extreme weather event, which took down power lines and crumpled six transmission towers and resulted in AGL’s Loy Yang A coal-fired power station going offline.

We need to get on with delivering the renewable energy, storage and upgraded transmission infrastructure to build a system that can cope better in extreme weather events, which can mean putting more wind and solar generators in more places.

2. Transmission and reliability

The transmission towers that fell in Victoria’s extreme weather event were built in the 1980s. All towers and lines built today are designed and constructed to new standards – but those standards could and should be reviewed with a specific lens on the increasing impacts of extreme weather events intensified by climate change.

In many cases, undergrounding is not practical. The evidence shows it is more expensive and would drive up energy prices, further delaying Australia’s shift to a clean energy system. In addition, when things go wrong, it takes longer to fix the problem which means consumers could be impacted for longer.

3. Local renewable generation vs large-scale projects

For a rapid and cost-effective shift to a resilient, renewable energy supply, we need an increased uptake of local energy solutions and large-scale projects. Home solar and batteries, microgrids, community batteries, large-scale wind, large-scale solar and storage and the poles and wires – we need it all to work together to support the system as fossil plants age and extreme weather events become more frequent and intense.


Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

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