By Dr Tim Fatchen

Now that the election is done, if not dusted, the Government and the cross-bench are committed to huge changes in a mere eight years in renewable power generation. Just taking the new Government promise and ignoring the much more spectacular demands of the Greens & Teals, it might look a big ask.

But it’s actually very easy to demonstrate, in a real and immediate sense, how successful such changes will be. Consider these two statements:

“To meet the climate change promise that Labor took to the federal election, the Albanese government must boost renewable energy to 82 per cent of supply by 2030” writes Graham Lloyd in The Australian (23/5, online).


“South Australia is at the vanguard of the global energy transition, having transformed its energy system from 1% to over 60% renewable energy in just over 15 years” states the SA Department of Energy and Mining. (https://www.energymining.sa.gov.au/growth_and_low_carbon/leading_the_green_economy)

Put simply, South Australia, right now, at 60% renewable–and the rest either gas locally or coal from interstate–is already close to the intended 82% of the Labor Government promise.

So let us use South Australia as a full-scale, real economy field test.

If we were to cut SA’s electrical extension cord to the eastern states, and thus cut out the evils of coal-fired generation–SA’s non-renewable being gas-fired–the State would become the practical demonstration of the renewable outcome sought by the Labor Government.

Think how many people this demonstration could reassure. And how “the vibe” could change enthusiasm for full conversion to renewables across the Nation.

Mind you, there are those who would argue that cutting the electricity interconnectors would be an extreme step, allowing no latitude for routine outages, and of course they would be correct: there needs to be some back-up electricity transfer possible. And there are times SA is exporting power.

So we must somehow remove the coal-fired component from any power entering SA. Quarantine for electrons, as it were.

Regrettably, our current understanding of physics does not yet allow us to separate the actual coal-generation electrons from those sourced via renewables. But it would be simple enough just to provide electricity to SA proportionate to that being generated by renewables only, with the contamination of coal generation thus removed pro rata.

To do so would provide such a simple demonstration, that it is difficult to understand why no-one has proposed it already. After all, week-long blackouts are but a distant memory now, best forgotten.

And of course, if against all expectations the field trial failed, and SA were again to be plunged into that forgotten powerless darkness, well, it’s only mendicant South Australia, and another submarine or two to build one day should sort that out.

South Australia

Dr Fatchen is a now-retired consultant ecologist and environmental project manager with research, academic and industry experience spanning four decades, effectively from the dawn of environmental regulation to the present.

He researched grazing systems in arid SA. A biologist/planner within the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, he was a pioneer of National Park planning in South Australia. He was foundation Lecturer in Ecology and later head of the Department of Natural Resources at the then Roseworthy CAE, designing and running some of Australia’s earliest environmental and natural resources management courses at tertiary level.

For 30 years, he successfully consulted widely in Australia with international experience in India. He has had direct high-level experience of most aspects of natural resource management, with significant development and regional planning components. As well as a strong focus on mineral and petroleum development and environmental issues, his experience of environmental assessment runs the gamut of land management and infrastructure development.

Between 1966 and 1980, Dr Fatchen was an active volunteer firefighter on Adelaide’s rural-urban fringe, with upwards of 300 fires attended. He was also active in planning and base operation within the SA NPWS. So he has, indeed, held a hose.

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