South Australia (SA) has been a shining beacon of light in Australia's clean, green future since more than a decade. In 2009 the state government committed to increase the renewable energy production target to 33% by 2020. This target was unsurprisingly reached earlier, by 2013/14. The target was then increased to 50% by 2025. This target was reached early as well, in 2016/17 - and they're not showing any signs of slowing down. With solar and wind capacity doubling in the next 5 years, they're heading towards 80% of renewable energy generation by 2021/22.
Nevertheless the incident highlighted that something needed to change to
increase the energy security for the state. Before the blackout, wind
had been producing about 50% of SA's power needs with the remainder
being imported from Victoria's interconnector. The state had the realisation that
they had sufficient renewable capacity to source energy security within the borders. They did not need to rely on their neighbours.
Enter Elon Musk AKA real life Tony Stark. Musk offered SA Premier Jay Weatherill that his company will help resolve South Australia's energy security issue. They will build the world's largest lithium-ion battery in 100 days, else it will be free. The Government took him up on his offer. This move along with the Government's announcement on building a new gas fired plant were the first steps towards solving SA's energy security concerns.
Musk's battery is a 100 megawatt/129 MWh system. It has been designed to lower the intermittency issues and manage high demand during peak summer months. It has the potential to provide enough energy to power 30,000 homes for eight hours or 60,000 homes for four hours. The battery is by far the largest in the world, more than three times any existing storage facility. It is expected to stabilise SA's electricity grid and also lower energy prices. The battery was launched on 1 December this year. Its early completion demonstrated that sustainable solutions needn't be time consuming and difficult but could be fast and efficient.
What pleased me most about this entire ordeal was that even after the blackout, the voter sentiment in SA wasn't dampened. A poll taken soon after the storms showed that almost two thirds of the public still believed that renewable energy is the solution to Australia's energy needs. It sent out a strong message to the rest of Australia and even the world at large. Sure, venturing into new territories with renewables will come with its set of challenges and setbacks, as we saw last year. But the most important thing is to look at the bigger picture. Renewable energy is the only way forward. South Australia understands this and it is important that the rest of Australia understands this too.
In Musk's words "It’s a definition that if it’s not renewable, it’s going to run out at some point”.