Renewable energy needs better researched articles

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Power industry and its substantial financial backers are reeling from Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi’s recent apparent hit-and-run attack on them. Picture: iStock
Power industry and its substantial financial backers are reeling from Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi’s recent apparent hit-and-run attack on them. Picture: iStock

Andrew Kenny’s article “Renewable energy is a disaster and will collapse SA’s electricity supply system” is misinformed and misleading. 

He cites South Australia as an example of the failure of renewables. What actually happened in Australia is that when energy supply was deregulated, the grid was split off as a separate operation and grid maintenance was neglected. Repairing that has imposed enormous costs, and the right-wing Liberal Party claimed incorrectly that those costs were a consequence of renewable energy. Whether there was a switch to renewables or not, that cost would have been incurred.

The Liberals, having beaten Labor in the South Australia state election in March 2018, abandoned their position that the Labor target of 75% renewables by 2025 was “ideology and idiocy” and are going ahead full speed to meet that target. Now the Liberals only differ with Labor on going a bit slower in phasing out coal.

Kenny claims that electricity is expensive in Denmark because of renewables. The first half of this is true. However, the cost of production of electricity in Denmark is among the lowest in Europe – but home consumption of electricity is heavily taxed. Industrial users are charged well below the average in Europe, and the Danish production cost is about 25% lower than in the UK, with far fewer renewables. So why is electricity to the Danish home so expensive? Denmark is a welfare state and everything is taxed heavily to pay for the social safety net.

What we can learn from these examples is that renewables can be cost effective, however, they need to be part of a coordinated strategy that includes modernising the grid.

The Australian experience suggests that our government’s plan of splitting Eskom into three entities – generation, transmission and grid – is a recipe for disaster. That is a far bigger concern than a poorly-researched ideological attack on renewables.

Read Andrew Kenny's piece here: http://ow.ly/iNk130opUmn

Philip Machanick is a member of the Grahamstown Residents Association

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