Record High Adelaide Temperature a Wakeup Call
Ned K. 29 January 2019
On Thursday 24 January, the officially recorded maximum temperature for Adelaide was 46.6 degrees Celsius, a record high temperature and higher than the 1939 heat wave temperatures of several days in a row of 45 degrees and over.
Even the 46.6 degree recording was an understatement as it was taken at the Bureau's relocated premises on the western, coastal side of the city. The highest temperature of the day recorded at the former Bureau location in the suburb of Kent Town on the eastern side of the city was 47.7 degrees.
Even with the first use of the diesel generators, there were still power blackouts to about 25,000 homes for up to five hours as the electricity grid struggled to cope with the situation.
As a consequence of the high demand for electricity in SA, Victoria also experienced blackouts as electricity demand in SA increased.
The AEMO CEO Audrey Zibelman said that the main sources of power on 24 January in SA and Victoria were from solar, gas and coal units and that due to low wind in both states, wind power played an insignificant role in the electricity available.
Zibelman said that three generators, two at Yallourn and one at Loy Yang, had already failed in the lead up to the extreme temperature days and a second one at Loy Yang was expected to follow suit on 25 January!
For hundreds of thousands of people right across Australia and indeed overseas from some reports, the extreme high temperatures in Adelaide were a wakeup call to the harsh reality of global warming.
People's reactions and comments on radio talk back about what they experienced in Adelaide and other parts of the state regarding the high temperatures can arguably be described as environmental insecurity.
The local parliamentary politicians did not give much comfort in response as they tried to score points on whose fault it was that 25,000 people went without electricity on the day for up to five hours in the hottest part of the day.
What is needed is for a diverse electrical energy system to be owned by the people and for use by the people not for profits of multinational companies. Currently in SA the electricity generation and distribution is owned by multinational corporations. This extends to planned renewable energy as well. In fact, on the back of the record high temperature day of 46.6 degrees in Adelaide the future federal ALP Government Energy Minister, Mark Butler, made reference to expansion of the hydrogen fuel industry in both SA and Queensland.
Hydrogen can be used to power vehicles and in energy storage systems and is strongly supported by the CSIRO. However, its development is dependent at the moment on multinationals like French company Neoen which plans to build the world's biggest co-located wind, solar, battery and hydrogen facility at Crystal Brook north of Adelaide. To his credit outgoing Premier Jay Weatherill developed a "Hydrogen Road Map" for SA, not as the sliver bullet for renewable energy but as another component of a desperately needed renewable energy mosaic.
Already though alarm bells are sounding about the Hydrogen Road Map in Australia. Multinationals involved/dominating it have their eyes on exporting hydrogen to Japan and South Korea where there is a waiting market for it. This will push the price up here and risk putting the benefits of a new clean industry out of the reach of the working people.
So even with a spurt in renewables, the question remaining will be how effective will it be if left in the hands of multinational corporations?