McClaughry: Former Australian prime minister on renewable subsidies

By John McClaughry

Former Australian Prime Minster Tony Abbott gave a speech last month that got worldwide attention. He took a hard nosed look at the effect of the rush to wind and solar power on Australia’s power grid. Here are some excerpts.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

“In September last year, the wind blew so hard that the wind turbines had to shut down – and the inter-connector with Victoria and its reliable coal-fired power failed too. For 24 hours, there was a state wide blackout. For nearly two million people, the lights were off, cash registers didn’t work, traffic lights went down, lifts stopped, and patients were sent home from hospitals.”

“Because the weather is unpredictable, you never really know when renewable power is going to work. Its marginal cost is low but so is its reliability.”

This echoes what Christine Hallquist of Vermont Electric Coop has been saying. Too much intermittent renewable power causes increasing problems of grid management.

Abbott continues: “A market that’s driven by subsidies rather than by economics always fails. Subsidy begets subsidy until the system collapses into absurdity. In Australia’s case, having subsidized renewables, allegedly to save the planet; we’re now faced with subsidizing coal, just to keep the lights on.”

And finally, said Abbott, “Primitive people once killed goats to appease the volcano gods. We’re more sophisticated now but are still sacrificing our industries and our living standards to the climate gods to little more effect.”

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.  Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

2 thoughts on “McClaughry: Former Australian prime minister on renewable subsidies

  1. John,

    I have some ten year old articles predicting the more wind and solar (stochastic) electricity on the grid, and the less traditional plants and the less synchronous rotational inertia, the less stability of the grid.

    Getting rid of coal and gas is stupid, unless you have other base load plants, such as hydro, to take their place.

    That was universally pooh poohed by the RE ignorati at the time, but it turned out the articles were right.

    Many power systems engineers did not dare to speak up, for fear of retribution.

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