OPINION: How to Hate the Great Australian Summer

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Close the beaches, empty the pool and turn off the aircon. Everything under the great Australian sun – including the sun – is officially cancelled.

The scare campaign has already begun. ABC News screamed out a headline on a story the other week of “How climate change could be making El Niño more extreme”.

It looks like it will be a hot and dry summer. A pretty typical Australian summer then. But we live in a complicated age and the witch doctors among us must find some human activity that explains the remarkable phenomena of it getting hot around Christmas time in Australia.

So all the evil coal miners will no doubt cop the blame this summer if our lights go out when everyone wants to turn their air conditioners on.

Ironically, the risk of this happening is now much higher because we no longer burn as much coal for electricity. This will be the first summer test of our electricity grid since the Liddell coal fired power station shut earlier this year. The forecast does not look good.

Last month, our energy regulator, the Australian Energy Market Operator, released its outlook for the next decade. According to them, if the coming summer turns out to be the one we only get once every 10 years, then there is a 72 per cent chance that Victoria will experience blackouts. There is a more than one in three chance that Victoria will experience a very large blackout.

Other states do not fare much better. There is almost a 50 per cent chance of blackouts in New South Wales and South Australia. Queensland has a one in five chance of blackouts.

The reason Queensland does not fare as badly is because we have not begun to shut down our large coal fired power plants. There might be a lesson in that for us all.

It has always struck me as strange that because we are worried that the weather is getting more extreme, we would proceed to install electricity systems (wind and solar) that rely on the weather. Hot, dry summers can also produce long periods without wind, and they rather annoyingly also have something called night, which occurs roughly every 24 hours.

So there will probably be long periods over which there is no wind or solar output at all. Often this will be at the very times people get angry with the kids for not putting the air conditioning remote back in its holster.

A study last year showed that there are periods of time in Victoria when there would be a massive gap of no power if we only had solar and wind. If you wanted to fill these gaps with batteries, you would need to spend about $700 billion to do so. Victoria’s annual economic output is just $400 billion.

This puts into context the absurd claim from Labor’s Energy Minister, Chris Bowen, that switching to nuclear would cost $367 billion. Even if this ridiculous over-estimate were true, it is much cheaper than Chris’ crazy renewables plan. The nuclear estimate is for the whole of Australia, the $700 billion battery plan is just for Victoria.

Any renewables plan is set to cost Australia trillions and even then, we would struggle to keep the lights on.

Even if you work for the ABC, and you think that climate change will burn us all, coal is your best friend to keep the air-conditioning on when the weather gets extreme.

Hon Matt Canavan

Senator for QLD

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